Anthony Bourdain’s genius was not in the kitchen. His genius was in never mincing words and knowing which side he was on. Asked what he would serve at a summit between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump, Bourdain said, “Hemlock.” He told David Duke, “I’d be happy to rearrange your knee or other extremities.” After visiting Cambodia, Bourdain wrote of Henry Kissinger — “that treacherous, prevaricating, murderous scumbag” — “you’ll never stop wanting to beat [him] to death with your bare hands.”
Journalists are not supposed to talk like this, at least ones hoping to retain a coveted network show like Parts Unknown. That CNN series nabbed Bourdain four of his five Emmys, and the sixty-one-year-old chef and author was in France filming an episode for the twelfth season when he hung himself June 7.
The obituaries and reminiscences about Bourdain miss who he was. He was more than a celebrity chef, a Hunter S. Thompson of the kitchen, a roguish culinary adventurer, or part Epicurean, part everyman. Bourdain was simply a journalist. And journalists can’t recognize him because they can’t recognize what real journalism is anymore. Bourdain was a chronicler of societies, of cultures, of people, of stories, of emotions. Food was his reporter’s notepad and pen.