Anthony Bourdain


This is a special edition of _consider., dedicated to Anthony Bourdain. 

A self-proclaimed essayist and story-teller, he left behind an astonishing catalog of written and visual brushes with humanity, food, and culture that could take years to sort through. Below you’ll find our personal favorites.

Bourdain was a hero of ours at _consider., as he was for many. In an age of identity politics and blind conviction, Bourdain believed in being wrong, in changing his mind, in accepting how little he actually knew. 

“I have an operating principle that I am perfectly willing, if not eager, to believe that I’m completely wrong about everything. I have a tattoo on my arm, that says, in ancient Greek, “I am certain of nothing.” [Men’s Journal Interview, 2014]

Neither are we. 

-Ben, Nick and Max

Parts Unknown (S11, E1): West Virginia
57 minutes, Aired April 29th, 2018

The 2018 season premiere of Parts Unknown in rural West Virginia could not have come at a more important time for Americans when it aired this April. With a rising hysteria over our political differences and the debate over gun regulations simmering on both sides of the aisle, Bourdain did what US mainstream media outlets failed to do: break bread with Trump voters. He brought a total respect for human dignity to the people he met with (including one family who’s already spoken out since his death), allowing him to unpack misconceptions of poverty, illiteracy, and drug addiction that are all too often associated with the region. Concluding the episode in his trademark reflection that we’ll so sorely miss, Bourdain reminds us, as he always did, that we’re really not so different after all: “What are any of our hopes and dreams? A roof over our head? Some security? Maybe even some happiness for our children? The opportunity to be proud of something? We all have that in common. This is America, and if you can’t embrace it no matter how bitterly or fiercely we may disagree, there is no hope for anyone of us."

WTF with Marc Maron: Anthony Bourdain
Podcast, 1h, 10m - from 2011

How Anthony Bourdain's celebrity came to be is an adventure tale in its own right. If you're unfamiliar with his backstory, then this hour and ten-minute conversation with Marc Maron is a great place to dive-in. His early days of cooking, self-destructive drug use, and late-blooming career as a writer-turned-travel-icon are all topics covered in this deeply honest discussion between two kindred spirits. 

Parts Unknown (S8, E1): Hanoi
42 minutes, Aired September 26th, 2016

“Listen to listen, listen to me - there is no other way to see this city - Hanoi - than from a motorbike or a scooter. To do otherwise would be to miss it all. It is one of the great pleasures of my life to join the river of people rushing through the streets.” Bourdain takes us through the streets and restaurants of Vietnam, culminating in beers and noodles with President Obama. The smells and tastes of Hanoi are the constants for Bourdain in an Asia that is changing ever faster. This episode is a reminder that, in the words of the former president, “He taught us about food — but more importantly, about its ability to bring us together. To make us a little less afraid of the unknown. We’ll miss him.”

My Aim Is True
Essay, Medium Raw

My Aim Is True, the standout story in Medium Raw (a collection of essays released in 2010), profiles Justo Thomas, the Dominican-American fish butcher at Le Bernardin in New York (widely regarded as one of the best seafood restaurants in the world). For over twenty years Thomas has butchered 700 pounds of fish daily, yet he's never eaten in the restaurant as a customer. Bourdain changes that when he treats Thomas as his guest. It's an extraordinary piece that highlights a world-class craftsman, the class-divisions within fine dining,  and the power of a meal shared between friends.  

Ben Brostoff