An Open Letter To Anthony Bourdain

Let me open by saying I have no belief that Mr. Bourdain will actually read this. I’d be stunned if a staffer even bothered to read this. Like most writing, it is all about me anyway. And my thoughts.

By all appearances, at this point in your life you seem a happy and content man. Great job. Great family. You get to travel the world, eating incredible, and sometimes inedible, food. Learning and educating on the cultures that you invade. And I am happy for your joy and success. I mean that. You’ve had quite the road. Lots of dark places and bad choices. We all do in some way. Not too many of us share that journey so publicly.

Of course I don’t know you at all except from tv and your books. For all I know you are a complete asshole but I don’t think so. I may be one as well. It isn’t like either one of us will ever know.

I have called myself a foodie. I’m beginning to think that moniker is not a positive one. It indicates an obsession. An addiction. I watch too much of the Food Network, no question. I cook and I like to cook. I actually use things I see on shows, whether No Reservations or Iron Chef or whatever. Here’s a cooking lesson!

If you can’t afford the better ingredients your dish will never get past mediocre. Ever cooked beef in a slow cooker for 10 hours in liquid and had it come out tough as nails? No? I have. That said, I have used what I could to make interesting dishes for my family. Sometimes they work, sometimes not. I have learned.

I’m no chef. I don’t pretend to be anything except a guy who likes to cook for his family. We’ve had our own rough road. Bankruptcy and lots and lots of drama and pain. No question there has been joy in there as well. That said, as I approach my 50th birthday in two weeks that I am neither a proud man nor content. I use food as a crutch. I eat as salve. It works for a few minutes. Then I feel guilty and beat myself up for it. It’s a cycle I am continually working on breaking. Maybe. Someday. You can look at me and say just do it. It is that easy. And it isn’t.

We are continually surrounded by images and plied with cheap promises. That we have a network dedicated to food is astounding and ridiculous. I may be a food junkie but I am also a news junkie. And I go out and find out the realities because I can’t even trust reporting. Truth is found in the margins, the edges of any story. Spin and entertainment do not make the news any more than food shows make me a chef.

We don’t need to look any further then Paula Deen and the news her diabetes generated to understand this world is fucked up. I have a wart on my finger. Call CNN!! So what does Tony Bourdain have to do with this?

In so many ways you became the balance in my obsession. You always recognized the ridiculous nature of fame and food. You called out everyone, including yourself, for the insanity of it all. You heaped ridicule on it all. And rightly so. It is one thing to learn about cooking on the streets of Mumbai. It is quite another to watch the myriad of food porn on The Food Network. Your fake cooking show segment you did in one of the food porn episodes of No Reservations really nailed it. The shots of female ‘chefs’ stirring with the camera firmly focused on their firm focus is by design. We all know it.

So let’s call this what it is. A vote of thanks for your honesty and a shot to the head for adding to it in your own way. I won’t stop watching. I do love learning what the folks on the street cook and eat around the world. And I can say without a hint of falsehood that I will never be able to eat in the restaurants you do. I will never have a $50 steak. I won’t be seated at Le Bernadin any time soon, hoping to hear Eric Ripert saying ‘Taaawwwnnnneeeee’ to you a few tables over. I won’t be shopping in any gourmet stores. I won’t be obsessing on umami. I may buy a pound of butter here and there and try to spruce up a dish with a bit of ‘something more’. I may periodically buy some smoked paprika to change-up flavours.

At the end of the day, I’m still watching. Wondering. Dreaming. And likely shoving some completely empty calories down my throat for reasons you would understand but will never know. And that is fine. Enjoy your life and family. It is the most important thing. No envy here. And no reservations.

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