Anthony Bourdain, the award-winning chef, author and tv host, was found dead today (June 8) in his hotel room in Strasbourg, France. CNN confirmed that Bourdain died by suicide. He was 61.
Bourdain spent two decades working in the restaurant industry before he went on to document his experience working in New York City’s culinary world. He first published an influential essay in The New Yorker that explored the restaurant universe of cooks and servers. Bourdain eventually became a television host, hosting the travel and food shows “No Reservations” on Travel Channel and CNN’s “Parts Unknown.”
When White people write about food, it’s often told through a fetishistic, colonialist gaze. But Bourdain, a White man, centered the narratives of the places and people who he visited and spoke to. He educated viewers on how colonialism and resistance movements shaped food all over the world.
In his writing and in interviews, Bourdain remained outspoken about racism in the food industry, including the denigration of immigrant restaurant workers, the culinary world’s racist classification of “fine dining” and the lack of mentorship and support for Black chefs. His advocacy for marginalized groups extended beyond the culinary world. In 2017, he emerged as an ally in the #MeToo movement, after his partner, Asia Argento, came forward with accusations of sexual misconduct against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.
Bourdain’s show “Parts Unkown” aimed to battle xenophobia and intolerance by showing the humanity of people of color everywhere. In 2014, the Muslim Public Affairs Council honored him for an episode that highlighted Gaza. In his award acceptance speech, Bourdain vocalized his support for Palestinians. “The world has visited many terrible things on the Palestinian people, none more shameful than robbing them of their basic humanity,” he said. “People are not statistics. That is all we attempted to show.”
On Friday, people of color on Twitter mourned Bourdain’s death by sharing reflections on how his legacy impacted their lives and communities.
Black folks loved this man because he didn’t appropriate, when it came to us all he could do was celebrate. He told the world we were the center of Southern&Brazilian food and he let us speak for ourselves. #AnthonyBourdain was the John Brown of food media.— Michael W. Twitty (@KosherSoul) June 8, 2018
“Out of 11 million undocumented ppl in this country, ppl taking care of the farms, running kitchens—are in the food industry directly, yet we don’t want to recognize they belong. Immigrants are the backbone of this country.” #AnthonyBourdain. RIP AB — our hearts r w/your family pic.twitter.com/ZkNwCTJgA5— ColorOfChange.org (@ColorOfChange) June 8, 2018
I’m so saddened to learn that Anthony Bourdain has passed— Rowayda (@row_volution) June 8, 2018
I remember watching his Gaza episode and being left emotional & shocked of such an honest depiction of Palestine on mainstream TV
Let us remember Bourdain as a brave voice that brought the truth to people’s living rooms
I’m sure many will say many things about Anthony Bourdain. One of my favorite things about him was how he weaved political education into food culture. He advocated for immigrant restaurant workers and featured the Black Panther Party in his stories on food culture in the Bay.— Sarah J. Jackson (@sjjphd) June 8, 2018
Bourdain never treated our food like he “discovered” it. He kicked it with grandma because he knew that HE was the one that needed to catch up to our brilliance.— Jenny Yang ?????? (@jennyyangtv) June 8, 2018
I wish so much for his legacy to take hold in western (mostly white) food media culture. What a loss. I’m so sad.
As we mourn the loss of Anthony Bourdain, let’s remember his unwavering support for Latinos in the food industry. pic.twitter.com/FjSge39MQB— REMEZCLA (@REMEZCLA) June 8, 2018
If you’re from a marginalized, dehumanized community, you know what Anthony Bourdain meant. To Palestinians, Iranians, Libyans, undocumented immigrants in the US, abused women…what a loss.— Mohammad Alsaafin (@malsaafin) June 8, 2018
.@Bourdain: “As any chef will tell you, our entire service economy—the restaurant business as we know it—in most American cities, would collapse overnight without Mexican workers.”— Gabe #DreamActNow Ortíz (@TUSK81) June 8, 2018
Bourdain was the kind of man who didn’t sanitize public expressions to fit what’s appropriate for “polite company” or what’s advantageous for his career. From Cambodia to Palestine, he spoke undiluted truth, with all the harshness and passion the moment called for. #RipAnthony pic.twitter.com/DYeNFw9LoK— Omar Baddar (@OmarBaddar) June 8, 2018
Watch Bourdain speak very movingly about his episode on Palestine. This episode was a milestone because he brought complexity and nuance to a people and a topic that so many others maligned.https://t.co/Vb2fXtfnsm— Racist Sandwich ? (@raceandfood) June 8, 2018
The respect that Anthony @Bourdain had for the food of every culture was unparalleled on television—it was never “exotic” or otherizing. He took the time to understand the people + the history behind the food, all while being a loud advocate for many who have been in the shadows.— ????? ???? (@altonwang) June 8, 2018