The restaurant and entertainment industries, foodies and Netflix bingers alike, mourn the loss of one of the great and unique voices of the past twenty years. Anthony Bourdain’s passing was sudden and unexpected. It is with sadness but also deeply felt respect and admiration that we share our own perspectives on Anthony Bourdain.
Brilliant storyteller, acclaimed chef, tv globetrotter, fearless eater...however you describe or remember him, Bourdain was an inspiration for many. At SinglePlatform we speak with thousands of restaurants every day. Whenever we speak with a restaurant operator we love to ask them how they got involved in the industry or what inspired them to open their own business and make some of the choices that they have. It doesn’t happen all the time, but often enough we’ll find when you start talking about inspiration, Tony’s name would come up. And reading his writing it was easy to see why.
After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, Bourdain had a long career in food, he spent many years as an executive chef at Manhattan’s brasserie, a SinglePlatform customer, Les Halles. But, his resume reached far beyond the kitchen. Bourdain became well known for his New York Times best-seller Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly. His honest work of nonfiction brought the intensity and turbulence of a restaurant kitchen to life, while weaving in his own personal experiences not only with cooking, but drug use. The book immediately shot Bourdain to fame. It’s safe to say that many restaurateurs, possibly including yourself, have read through its pages.
We recognize that many of our customers work in exhausting, thankless, physically punishing jobs. Running a kitchen is hard work. You’re actually cooking yourself along with your food between the screaming hot flat tops and the cauldrons of boiling stock and water; you’re exhausted from breaking down quarter cows and case after case of produce; and between it all you’re providing hospitality and service to your customers who have no clue about the absolute chaos that is taking place behind the kitchen doors. And when service is over, you’re cleaning out a grease trap until midnight. No writer peeled back the curtain on that scene better than Bourdain. And in the process he inspired a generation of chefs and diners along the way. He was not afraid to reveal the difficulties of the industry, and he was just as likely to champion one of his dishwashers or a prep cook as he was Joel Robuchon.
After his book's success, Bourdain was offered his own series on the Food Network, A Cook’s Tour, that premiered in 2002. The premise allowed Bourdain to travel to exotic countries, tasting meals and exploring the culture across the globe. Throughout his career, from Food Network to Travel Channel, and finally to CNN, he stayed true to his craft in combining cuisine and culture.
Deemed the “original rock star of the culinary world,” Bourdain was known for pushing boundaries. He openly challenged the concept of “celebrity chef,” and often criticized those who he believed traded authenticity for celebrity status. Bourdain wasn’t afraid to share his perceptions of the world, expletives and all.
When asked about his work, Bourdain told The New Yorker:
“I have the best job in the world. If I’m unhappy, it’s a failure of imagination.”
Although cut short, Bourdain’s influence on many was palpable. He has definitely left a longstanding impact on the culinary world & how it is perceived by those outside of it.
As far as his opinions about life, Bourdain leaves us with something poignant,
“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.”
At SinglePlatform we’re honored to work with Michelin starred restaurants, former lawyers who have realized their dreams of owning a coffee shop, sons and daughters who have inherited the custard shop their grandparents started and emigres who started their businesses with their life savings and a box of family recipes. We work with no shortage of young chefs who went to the Culinary Institute in large part inspired by watching No Reservations or reading Kitchen Confidential. Anthony Bourdain helped us find the value, the authentic, and frankly the plain delicious at each of these places. Former President Barack Obama, who once dined with Bourdain in Vietnam, spoke well of him,
“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”.
At SinglePlatform, we concur. And we say “Thank you, Chef.”