The chef and TV presenter talked about revolution, parenting, abuse and Trump voters in what is believed to be the last interview before his death
Anthony Bordains final interview has shed light on the chefs thoughts on travel, culture and politics. The piece, which surfaced on independent publication Popula on Sunday, includes Bourdains takes on Bill Clintons behaviour in office, Obamas performance as US president and his own daydreams about the demise of Harvey Weinstein (Bourdains partner, Asia Argento, was one of the first to accuse the former movie mogul of rape).
But Bourdain also spoke about other things, such as the joy that comes from friendship, and how to think about parenting. Here are some of the highlights:
I much prefer people who just showed up in Paris and found their own way without any particular itinerary, who left themselves open to things happening. To mistakes because thats the most important part of travel.
On talking to strangers
You go to a place like Beirut and you find yourself talking to a Muslim woman. If youre a journalist tasked with an agenda, you know, youre there to report a story, and you come right out with it. Youre going right into some very difficult areas. Whereas I have the luxury, Im there to eat! Presumably. Im there to eat, and Im asking very simple questions.
What makes you happy? What do you like to eat, where do you like to go to get a few drinks; you know? What do you miss about the place when you go away? And I find, again and again, just by spending the time, by asking very simple questions, people have said the most astonishing things to me. Often things that would be very uncomfortable for them outside of that casual context.
I know very much what wont make me happy. The perfect car will not make me happy. The perfect house will probably make me sad, and terrified
Im a renter by nature. I like the freedom to change my mind about where I want to be in six months, or a year. Because Ive also found you might have to make that decision you cant always make that decision for yourself.
My happiest moments on the road are always off-camera, generally with my crew, coming back from shooting a scene and finding ourselves in this sort of absurdly beautiful moment, you know, laying on a flatbed on those things that go on the railroad track, with a putt-putt motor, goin across like, the rice paddies in Cambodia with headphones on this is luxury, because I could never have imagined having the freedom or the ability to find myself in such a place, looking at such things.
To sit alone or with a few friends, half-drunk under a full moon, you just understand how lucky you are; its a story you cant tell. Its a story you almost by definition, cant share. Ive learned in real time to look at those things and realise: I just had a really good moment.
On cycles of abuse
You know a lot of the chefs, all of the really bastard chefs, most the really oppressive ones, the old school ones, were abused children, were abused by their parents, were abused and neglected, physically, mentally, in every possible way, and then became just like their abuser, and would perpetuate the system.
A lot of chefs never really understood, or understood only really belatedly; theyd been powerless for much of their careers. I dont know. For most of my career, chefs were creatures without power. To talk about power imbalance, is in retrospect, there was one. But I think we all saw ourselves at outcasts, as weak, except in our little bubble in the kitchen.
On Trump voters
The contempt and the ridicule which has been heaped on places like West Virginia, which is the heart, demographically, of enemy territory, as far as New York liberals like us are concerned This is something we fucked up in the sixties. We were fighting against cops and construction workers cops and construction workers were exactly who we fucking needed! They were the first to die, in Vietnam. We werent gonna!
Somebody at the White House press briefing has to sacrifice their job and say: You utter piece of shit! Do you really expect us to swallow that steaming load of horseshit? How do you live with yourself? You should be ashamed. Give me one guy to throw themselves on a fire like that, lose access, lose the gig at the White House, for that infinitely repeatable meme. Give me that. Just give me that. Someone to stand up.
On not being an artist
From the very beginning Ive always and only made the television I wanted to make, and as soon as I could I told whoever was involved to go fuck themselves, and somehow landed on my feet someplace else, with somebody who was willing to indulge me in even grander fashion. So I havent had to deal with the grim reality of well, you either do the Best Burgers in America show, or you have no work at all! I havent had to live with that. I havent had to be particularly nice to people I dont like. Ever.
We cannot choose the leaders of our revolutions, theyre all deeply flawed and they will all all revolutions will be corrupted
The minute everybody in the room agrees with you, youre in a bad place, so Im a big believer in change just for its own sake, just to show that you can change, to move forward incrementally, but aint nobody gonna make everything better. Whoever has the intestinal fortitude or the megalomaniac instincts sufficient to lead any kind of a revolution will inevitably disappoint horribly.
The best revolutionaries of course are martyrs who died before they could turn into disgusting, self-serving, corrupt pieces of shit. As they all do.
Asia [Argento] said this to me: children create themselves independently of us. All you can do is show, like in my case, my daughter feels loved. She knows shes loved. She has good self-esteem. Very important. And good martial arts skills. So she knows she can take any boy in her age group. Thats all I can do as a father I cant pick her music, her boyfriends, whatever, however shes going to turn out. I can give her these basic things.
On the imagined death of Harvey Weinstein
My theory of how he goes is uh, hes brushing his teeth in a bathroom, hes naked in his famous bathrobe, which is flapping open, hes holding his cell phone in one hand because you never know who on the Weinstein board has betrayed him recently, and hes brushing his teeth he suddenly gets a massive fucking stroke he stumbles backwards into the bathtub, where he finds himself um, with his robe open feet sticking out of the tub, and in his last moments of consciousness as he scrolls through his contacts list trying to figure out who he can call, who will actually answer the phone.
And he dies that way, knowing that no one will help him and that he is not looking his finest at time of death.Read More
The globefrom the markets of Manila to the jungles of the Congo to the coffee-stained streets of New York Cityis trembling today with the loss of Anthony Bourdain, a man who truly was, in the words of Captain Louis Renault, a citizen of the world.
What a life he lived.
Albert Camus, the French philosopher, once wrote, Every great work makes the human face more admirable and richer, and that is its whole secret. Bourdains was a face etched with experience. It was the face of a man who never said no; a man who never shied away from a challenge; a man who grabbed life by the teat and milked it for every last drop.
He was an inspiration to many. For those who struggled with addiction like himself, he showed that you could burst forth from that suffocating cocoon and lead a life of wonderment and adventure, traveling across the world, indulging in its myriad pleasures. For those who felt walled off from the rest, he presented a glorious escape.
Do we really want to travel in hermetically sealed popemobiles through the rural provinces of France, Mexico and the Far East, eating only in Hard Rock Cafes and McDonalds? he wrote in his groundbreaking book Kitchen Confidential. Or do we want to eat without fear, tearing into the local stew, the humble taquerias mystery meat, the sincerely offered gift of a lightly grilled fish head? I know what I want. I want it all. I want to try everything once.
Bourdains messagedelivered primarily via his shows No Reservations and Parts Unknown, where he fashioned the template for travel-televisionwas about forging bonds and overcoming divides, mostly through meal and conversation. Its a message that feels ever more resonant in the age of Trump, where talk of walls and others pollute the airwaves. Unlike our Fearful Leader, Bourdain was always open and inviting. Whether it be Barack Obama, Trump-worshipping families in West Virginia or a rickshaw driver in Southeast Asia, Bourdain could break bread with them and form a meaningful connection.
He saw the humanity in everyone he crossed paths with and fought like hell for the marginalized and oppressed, recently emerging as one of the most vocal male allies of the #MeToo movement. His was a keen sense of justice. One of his personal favorite quotes concerned the war criminal Henry Kissinger, writing in his 2001 book A Cooks Tour: Once youve been to Cambodia, youll never stop wanting to beat Henry Kissinger to death with your bare hands. You will never again be able to open a newspaper and read about that treacherous, prevaricating, murderous scumbag sitting down for a nice chat with Charlie Rose or attending some black-tie affair for a new glossy magazine without choking. Witness what Henry did in Cambodiathe fruits of his genius for statesmanshipand you will never understand why hes not sitting in the dock at The Hague next to Miloevi.
When Bourdain traveled the world, we knew we were sending our very best. I may be a miserable cranky bastard, but I am also a sentimental fool, he said of himself. A lovable, sentimental fool at thatone eager to offer a friendly ear, no matter the time or place.
Upon hearing the news of his death, reportedly by suicide, my thoughts first went to his daughter and then to his good friend, chef Eric Ripert, who is said to have discovered the body. As enjoyable as his waxing rhapsodic about the Waffle House or journeying into the heart of the Congo was, there was nothing us No Reservations/Parts Unknown die-hards cherished more than the loving friendship of Bourdain and Ripert. That time Bourdain took his pal to the Sichuan province of China, torturing him with dish after scorching-hot dish (including rabbit head!); their ski-race down the Alps; the $1,000 bet over who could milk a cow; struggling to operate a pizza truck together in Marseille; their ridiculous feast at lAtelier de Jol Robuchon in Paris. Theirs was a TV bromance for the ages.
Anthony was a dear friend, Ripert said in a statement. He was an exceptional human being, so inspiring and generous. One of the great storytellers of our time who connected with so many. I wish him peace. My love and prayers are with his family, friends and loved ones.
Most of all though, Bourdain taught us to get out there and explore the world; to not be complacent, but delight in all the marvels it has to offer.
If Im an advocate for anything, its to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river, he wrote.
The extent to which you can walk in someone elses shoes or at least eat their food, its a plus for everybody. Open your mind, get up off the couch, move.
If you or a loved one are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).Read More
On Tuesday morning, fashion designer Kate Spade committed suicide. A few days later, on Friday afternoon in Strasbourg, France, chef Anthony Bourdain committed suicide.
What stands out both Spade's and Bourdain's death is the fact that they represented, for many, what seemed to be success and happiness. Spade had sold her eponymous handbag collection in 2007, had a husband and a teenage daughter, and had swept up every fashion award humanly possible, and then some.
Likewise, Bourdain was a giant in his field, working up the ranks in the kitchen to becoming a talented chef, a widely read author, and achieving the pinnacle of his success in televised food documentaries that flung him to perilous corners of the Earth, first through No Reservations and then through Parts Unknown.
Beneath that sheen of success and happiness, however, there was depressiondeep, unsettling, tumultuous depression that rocked both Spade and Bourdain, ultimately leading them to commit suicide.
That's a huge problem within the mental health community right now, which is reeling from the fact that not only did two well-liked, highly followed celebrities with strong fan following potentially spark a suicide contagion, but also a report out from the Centers for Disease Control that proves what we've suspected: Suicide rates are spiking in every state in America, with about half of states seeing levels skyrocketing 30 percent more than previously reported.
One of the most astonishing facts reported in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report is the fact that 54 percent of people who committed suicide had previously unknown mental health issues. Only after they died did loved ones figure out that there were issues beneath their outward facade.
"The first thing is that even people who have a lot of support are not immune to mental health issues behind the scenes," Lauren Appio, a psychologist with a private practice in Manhattan who is trained in dealing with patients dealing with suicide ideation and depression, told The Daily Beast. "They might say, 'I have it all. Why can't I be satisfied, be content, move past this?"
Appio said that the misconception that people who "have it all" can't have depression or be dealing with mental health issues often works against patients as well, wondering why they are incapable of being happy if they have a dream family and relationship, a job others lust after, and all the perks of fame and success.
That's the wrong way to think about it. While many equate suicide with those who have struggled with mental illness for years or dealt with substance abuse and have had an established history of trying to deal with their inner demons. But Appio said that those most at risk of suicide ideation are often the very people who don't have such a history.
That said, Appio stressed that there are warning signs. She said they almost always told someone about the issues they were dealing with: talking about wanting to die and kill themselves, researching methods of suicide online, and expressing hopelessness, feeling trapped or like a burden on others.
But a potential obstacle might be those who are close to the patient and might not understand why success and "having it all" doesn't mean happiness. "People might unintentionally invalidate them by asking, 'What's wrong? Why don't you snap out of it?'"
And that invalidation can be extremely dangerous in putting a person towards the path of suicide.
Dr. Waguih William IsHak is a professor of psychiatry at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles agreed that people who might seem like they are successful and happy are at risk of hiding depression, and can be so good at it that they don't pique concern from even those closest to them.
What can be especially frightening is the point at which a depressed person has internally made the decision to commit suicide, and reach a sense of relief.
"So many people don't see it [suicide] coming because they [eventual victims] seem to be in such a good mood and so relieved," IsHak said. "It's a scary thing."
That makes the science of trying to understand when a person is most at risk of committing suicide essential. Yet, because of stigma, science funding, and the complex psychology behind suicide, it's been one of the least funded and understood mechanisms of our neuroscience.
In fact, IsHak called suicide neuroscience and our understanding of it "underdeveloped." "We've looked at biochemicals, and we have some ideas, but a lot of the studies don't have anything reliable to show."
One potential area of promise is Brodmann Area 25, a part of the cerebral cortex in the brain that has shown some linkage with depression and suicide. In people who are depressed and are considering suicide, some preliminary research seems to suggest that there is low metabolic activity in the area, with low oxygen rates and glucose. IsHak cautioned the research is early and that what we know about Brodmann Area 25 can hardly be used for prediction. But it's a start.
Some work in this arena has been done, and to great effect. Kelly Posner at Columbia University helped establish the Columbia-Suicide Severity Rating Scale, a series of questions that can be asked of anyone and has proven remarkably effective in preventing suicide and helping to treat depression.
But its not enough. Perhaps the biggest obstacle towards treating suicide as the public health issue it is is the fact that there is no federally funded program, particularly focused on the most vulnerable population of adults.
"Suicide research has not become a national priority, and it should," Is Hak said. "It would open the door to using biomarkers and brain imaging to study people at risk of suicide.
The important thing to understand, according to experts, is that those who might seem happy, who might seem fortunate, who might not seem to have a reason to be anything but lucky are not immune to mental health struggles. For those wondering about Bourdain and Spade's suicides, the question is often why. But the truth is complex and one that is lodged deep within their now silenced memory and mind. That they were successful did not preclude them from angst and pain, the type that pushed them over the edge into suicide; in fact, that contrast of their outward success and seemingly perfect life from the turmoil they dealt within themselves might have driven them to feel even more out of touch, hopeless, and isolated.
"We all know people like this, if we're not them ourselves," Appio noted. "We live in a culture where we're motivated to hide and suppress our suffering in the name of seeming fine. There's a pressure to persevere and be positive.
"It's possible for people to hide," she said. "But those warning signs slip through. That we we have to look out for."
If you or a loved one are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).Read More
I love that your latest cookbook, A Grandfathers Lessons, was inspired by your 13-year-old granddaughter, Shorey. We were not even supposed to do a book! Shorey and I started working together on [2015 TV series] Heart & Soul. It was a lot of fun to work together, so we decided to do a series of videos, and my daughter said, You have to do a book! Thirty-six of the 75 recipes we taped in a video. We even did videos on table manners, how to fold napkins. The book covers everything from arctic char with fresh tomato to a hot dog cut so that it curls up when you cook it.
How long have you been cooking with Shorey? I started when she was a year and a half old. I put a spoon in her hand when I was holding her and helped her stir the pot. Since she was 4 or 5 years old, when she came to the house, shed get involved. When she was small, shed help hand me ingredients or stir the soup or wash vegetables. Its also a question for someone at my age, over 80 years old: How do you communicate with a teenager? Im much faster in the kitchen than her, but shes much faster with her iPhone and her computer than I am. When we cook together, we spend time together around the table, talking. Its a learning experience, too: Theres lots of science, math, geography in cooking.
Did you enjoy making the shorter videos for A Grandfathers Lessons? We did [the filming] in my back house here in Connecticut, and we did it in the summer when Shorey was out of school. It was a less lavish production than we do usually on PBS. We worked with Tom Hopkins, the photographer who shot the photos for the book, whos worked with me for 35 years. He was the producer as well. It was a lot of fun.
As the co-founder of Boston Universitys gastronomy program and a longtime dean at the International Culinary Center in New York, youve literally made a career out of teaching people to cook; was teaching your own granddaughter different? When Im giving a class for professionals, its different than when I give a class for home cooks. You try to massage the lessons a little bit for the person youre teaching. With my granddaughter, its rewarding, because shes my granddaughter! The memories of the kitchenof your mother, your father, the smells, the tastesthey stay with you for the rest of your life.
What are your favorite tips for teaching kids to cook (and eat)? I think that there is not really one way of doing it. Certainly getting them exposed to cooking is important. People come to my house and they know were going to have some nice food, but they feed their kids something else beforehand: I dont think thats a good idea. Whats on the table is whats on the table in our house, and we dont discuss it. We never bought baby food; we took some of the food we ate and put it in the food processor. By the time my daughter was 8 or 9 years old and eating spaghetti and clam sauce, she already recognized the taste from even earlier.
You also have another book out this month called My Menus featuring illustrated menus like the ones you create for your own dinner parties. Why are handwritten menus so important? Ive been married 51 years, and I have 12 large books of menus. I can see what we ate 50 years ago, and I can also see my mother, my two brothers who are gone, and those are great memories. I can see what my daughter had for dinner for her 15th birthday! In the book, you can fill in the menus with what you served, and your guests can sign the opposite page. Its a great way of remembering.
Youve been an artist for almost as long as youve been a chef, with an online gallery of your paintings for sale. How did you get started painting? I first came to America in 1959, and I think the next summer we rented a house with a friend in Woodstock, New York. I liked working with my hands, and wed refinish and redo old furniture wed find on the street. In Woodstock, there were a lot of artistspeople painting and so forthand we started painting. And then when I went to Columbia University [in the early 1960s], I took a class in drawing and sculpture, so Ive been doing art a long time. I actually just finished a new painting half an hour ago!
Your first cookbook came out in 1975; whats changed the most in the food world since then, and whats changed the least? Good food is still good food. That will never change. But the diversity has changed a lot. When I came to America, there was only one lettuce in the supermarket, and it was iceberg. There were no shallots, no kale. The supermarket is better today than its ever been. I read somewhere that there are more than 5,000 farmers markets in America today. People say nobody cooks now, but all the food from those farmers markets has to be going somewhere. Back in the 70s, all the best continental restaurants in the U.S. were French. You couldnt even get good Italian food in New York! Now, there are 24,000 restaurants in New York with food from all over the world.
What does your home kitchen look like? I have a very, very large counter6 by 9 feet. I have two dishwashers. Functionality is the word for me. In professional kitchens in Paris, youd think the chef is blindhe can grab things, open the oven, all without looking. Its like a dance. A kitchen setup like that can really make things easy. Good equipment, easily accessible, is really important. I have a wall made of barn wood with probably 80 different pots and pans hanging from it. It looks nice, and its also useful.
What do you cook when youre cooking for fun? I always cook for fun, frankly! Weve had so much zucchini in the garden that lately Ive been making zucchini bread, zucchini soup. Thats really how I cook. Its determined by the market and the garden. Whats in season and what were in the mood for. Our taste has also changed; I dont cook the same things now that I did 50 years ago.
Do you watch any food TV shows today? Not really. I do occasionally watch Rick Bayless or somebody on PBS. I watch Anthony Bourdain on CNN because hes a good friend, but honestly, I dont watch too much food TV. So many of them are reality shows with a lot of yelling that I dont like so much anyway.
In the late 1950s, before you ever came to America, you served as personal chef to three French heads of state, including Charles de Gaulle; what was that like? It was another world. It was another world of cooking; how many people there were in the kitchen. At a state dinner, you have to deal with protocols, how long the dinner is supposed to be, and all kinds of other little rules. Its also different when you just cook for the president. Every Sunday after church, I would make a meal for the president and his whole familychildren, grandchildren, everybody.
If you could cook dinner with anybody, living or dead, who would it be, and what would you cook? It would always be with family. For me, I would bring back my father or my mother and cook with them again. I know what they like and what they will be pleased with. I did enjoy cooking with Michelle Obama one time out of the organic garden at the White House, but I would probably go back to people I love who were close to me.
Interview has been condensed and edited.Read More