Anthony Bourdain's Twitter profile just says, "Enthusiast."
The chef, food writer, Parts Unknown host, Top Chef judge — the enthusiast — has died from an apparent suicide. He was 61.
Many of us were introduced to Bourdain through his book about the restaurant world, Kitchen Confidential. Here, he wrote about the intensity, the tempers, the swearing, the drugs — he built much of the image we now have of restaurant kitchens as dens of iniquity that somehow produce something divine. But his own kitchens ceased to be his focus long ago. Unlike a lot of other people who might be called "celebrity chefs," Bourdain didn't primarily care about the food he made, but the food he ate.
He was, particularly on his TV shows, infinitely curious, literally hungry for everything. He loved restaurants that would look like nothing special to people accustomed to fuss. He believed passionately in street food sold from stalls around the world, not because he fetishized authenticity as a status marker, but as a chance to learn about a place through how it feeds its people. And he believed that you learn the most from the people who make food that other people actually want to eat day in and day out, not just on special occasions. What is more personal than what people put in their bellies? What is more profound than what they share with each other, what they spear with a fork and move to a plate? What — truly, what — tells us more about ourselves than the things we choose to, day after day, slide down our gullets?
So Bourdain didn't focus on standing in a sterile kitchen telling you how to make your own guacamole or how to produce a passable pho at home. He had a food show on the Travel Channel. Then he had one on CNN. Both homes, then unusual for food television, made all the sense in the world. He was open about the fact that he mostly had a TV show so he could travel all over the world and meet people and eat. If he seemed to be profoundly driven about anything, it was not building the most restaurants. It was understanding more of the world each year than he had the year before. And he never suggested pity for the people he visited, no matter what their circumstances. He wasn't there to suggest that a place, even one where the people were accustomed to being seen through the lens of their struggles, needed the touch of your benevolent hand as much as that it deserved your respect.