by: Marissa Morales
Anthony Bourdain has held a very special place in my heart, for a very long time. Our affair began shortly after I turned thirteen. My dad worked third shift and I rarely got to spend time with him, and my dad is best friend, so I cherished every moment I got to spend with him. One night we were channel surfing and stumbled upon a little show on Food Network entitled A Cook’s Tour where the host was traveling around Tokyo showing viewers the exotic foods around the city.
My dad and I were hooked; Bourdain was, much like my father, a no nonsense guy who said what he felt, others’ feeling be damned. He was so unapologetic, yet so gracious to his host country. He wasn’t trying to impress anyone and was just being himself, a rare thing for a television host. This was also around the time of the rise of Rachael Ray, so he was quite a breath of fresh air from the perky hosts then permeating through the Food Network’s screen. We were hooked.
Even after I moved to the suburbs of Illinois, while my dad was in Wisconsin, we both continued to watch Bourdain’s culinary travels and frequently discussed what crazy thing he had gotten into over our television screen the night before. He brought us a bit closer even though we were miles away. And then suddenly, Bourdain was gone. Food Network had axed his show. We were devastated.
Then Travel Channel decided to take a chance on Bourdain, and gave him what has become an important mark on culture: No Reservations. When this show began, I was hooked, once again, from the first episode. It wasn’t just about food anymore, it was also about travel. It was also around this time that I discovered Bourdain’s non-fiction writing. Suddenly, everything in my life shifted.
He had inspired me and opened my eyes to a whole new world of possibilities. You could get paid to write, travel the world, and eat? It didn’t seem feasible, and yet here was Bourdain doing just that. And this guy, this guy, was everything I’d ever wanted to be: He was funny, honest, intelligent, and well, cool. He made no apologies for his sarcastic sense of humor, and he smoked! People on television didn’t smoke unless they were telling us not to! Bourdain is the embodiment of my personal motto: No Fucks Given.
He introduced viewers to a whole new world and brought the culture of “foodies” to the forefront. Initially he began to gain popularity for the bizarre foods he would eat in his host countries. But it became about more than that, even he has boundaries, but he still ate foods and visited places we could only dream of. Bourdain didn’t just travel to exotic lands, he also traveled within the United States, showing places that maybe were more accessible to those of us without a Travel Channel contract.
He also gave Travel Channel the viewership and money to air shows such as Man vs. Food with my future husband Adam Richman, and Bizarre Foods. Bourdain knows how to stir a pot, but he does it in such an amiable way that you were with him, excited to travel with him every week with a pen and paper, adding to your bucket list. He was going to places I could only dream of, but it gave me dreams.
When the show began when I was sixteen, I suddenly had an answer to “What do you want to be when you grow up?” My answer, “A travel writer.” Now that dream may have altered as I grew older and began to experiment, but I will tell you one thing for free, this article wouldn’t be written if it weren’t for Tony Bourdain. He inspired me to do something I’d be happy doing.
He also inspired me to gain a longing for travel, and while I haven’t done too much as of yet, I know I will. Bourdain also made me want to know more about food. There were so many cuisines I didn’t even know existed, so many that intrigued me. Tony Bourdain made me a food snob. And I’m incredibly okay with that. He made a lot of us food snobs.
Suddenly everyone with cable became interested in odd locales, and went out seeking the most “authentic” cuisines in the neighborhood. While we hate each other for it, we all do it. Bourdain showed everyone that you shouldn’t just settle for McDonald’s, while it does okay on a drunken night, don’t forget there are other vendors open that will do the job even better. Incidentally, in the flagship episode, Bourdain also taught us about absinthe. This guy does as he pleases.
Bourdain is also incredibly open and grateful for his audience. I had the privilege to see him speak in Chicago two years ago, and he was just as personable as one would imagine. He spent the bulk of him time answering audience members’ questions, giving his opinions and doling out advice. It was heart-warming.
This is pretty impressive coming from a guy who seemingly would never gain this type of notoriety. He grew up in New Jersey, then decided to spend his days in New York. He’s an ex-heroin addict and started at the bottom of the restaurant ladder. When he wrote Kitchen Confidential, he rattled the industry by being blatantly honest about the inner workings of restaurant world. But hey, he’s Tony Bourdain, and look away if you don’t like it. This is the guy who had a naked picture leaked, and was the first one to tweet about it. He’s not easily rattled.
Now, as Bourdain closes the Travel Channel chapter in his life, you can bet your bottom dollar that I will be following his journey to CNN. He has had eight wonderful seasons of No Reservations, but he also has a family who I’m sure he would love to spend more time with, and as long as he continues to be accessible over some television channel, I’ll be happy. He’s such an incredible man and I wish him nothing but the best, and a great big “thank you.”