Anthony Bourdain: The Legacy of a Storyteller
“Why do you write?” is a question frequently posed to writers. It’s a question I’ve often asked myself. The answer for me is simple. Why do I write? Because there are stories in me waiting for me to tell. Storytelling isn’t just an art. It’s a way of connecting people, places, and ideas. When celebrity chef, travel documentarian, and author, Anthony Bourdain died earlier this month, he was most fondly described as a superb storyteller, but not only by his professional peers. While tributes poured in from fellow celebrity chefs like Gordon Ramsay, Nigella Lawson, and Jamie Oliver to dignities like Barack Obama, the most revealing praise came from the ordinary people Bourdain liked to share his time with. Outside Les Halles, the French restaurant where Bourdain was once executive chef, notes were attached to the storefront, along with flowers and other gifts. Some notes were brief, written on tiny post-its. “You were loved. No reservations.” “Mr. Bourdain, you for made faraway places seem not so far away. Like home. Rest easy.” Many were written in foreign languages. Longer notes thanked Bourdain for being “an authentic and inspiring storyteller…reminding us to experience and savor life.” “Thank you for bringing a respectful view to the people of Palestine, Libya, Iran & more.” Some were as irreverent as Bourdain. “Dear Anthony, You were such a kickass mother****er.” Bourdain was unpretentious and humble. “It would be an egregious mistake to ever refer to me in the same breath as most of the people I write about.” He was unabashedly passionate. “Your body is not a temple: it’s an amusement park. Enjoy the ride.” He may have hinted that there can be a cost for being a storyteller. “As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life — and travel — leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks — on your body or on your heart — are beautiful. Often, though, they hurt.” Bourdain didn’t lecture. Writers understand that means he didn’t tell. He showed. By bringing us stories about the food, culture, and people from around the globe, he made his audience feel as if it had a seat at the table. He connected people, which is what a good storyteller does best. Rest in peace, Anthony Bourdain. Your stories are your legacy and your gift.