There are two people in my life to whom I can directly attribute my love for food: my dad and Anthony Bourdain.
My dad was always in the kitchen. Even after cooking a meal he would be in the fridge poking around, looking for something to snack on. He was always open to trying new things, even if it was just once. And he was the one who taught me the most when it comes to technique and cooking.
Anthony Bourdain was the one who taught me about the stories behind the food. He didn’t just focus on a chef’s recipe, standing in a kitchen waiting for something to be prepared for him, rolling his eyes back into his head and getting three-fifths of the way to an orgasm as he bites into a puff pastry (I’m looking at you, Guy Fieri).
He discovered the place, the people, and the history behind the dish, not just the food itself. He met families in Greece who would pick greens right in their own backyard. He spoke to Palestinians who just wanted to go see their friends on the other side of the wall in Gaza. He went Ice fishing in Moscow, only to pull out an – as Bourdain often pointed out – already-dead prop fish jabbed on the end of his hook by his producers.
When I was younger, I had dreams of getting him to come to San Antonio, showing him around, taking him to little mom and pop Mexican restaurants to eat tamales and barbacoa. Silly? Sure. Improbable? Definitely. But a kid could dream.
His shows had ups and downs, but he was a constant force of badassery that I could always count on to provide me with a quality learning experience – and make me a little hungry in the process.
I get giddy when I see the little ‘New Episodes’ box pop up on Mind of a Chef, the PBS series produced and narrated by Bourdain, on Netflix. He taught me so much about respecting food and respecting the people behind the food, taking the time to understand the love that goes into everything that chefs and farmers do. And he inspired so many more. The gonzo-style food journalism that Bourdain pioneered has gone onto spark so many offshoots that I can’t even name them all.
This morning, I was shocked when I heard that he had died. I immediately began speculating about cause, which made me even more sad. I knew he had a history of drug abuse. I know that drug abuse usually ties into mental illness. I just would’ve never guessed that that would have drove him to depression and to take his own life.
It’s the second time this week that we’ve seen a high-profile individual die by suicide. It’s the second time this week we’ve felt the need to star the conversation about mental health and depression. Sadly, I think this will be the second time this week that we lose sight of the real issues at hand.
It’s a difficult thing, suicide. It’s a strange feeling, no matter how many times you experience it. The first time I did was in high school in 2007 when a friend of mine died by suicide. You can’t be just one thing. You can’t just be mad, sad, confused, scared, or any other emotion that comes up. You’re all of those things combined.
I’m sad that I’ll never get to see Anthony explore a new place again. I’m sad that he didn’t reach out for help. I’m mad that I couldn’t be there for him, as ridiculous as that sounds. I’m confused as to how and why this happened. And I’m scared that someone close to me could be feeling the same way, and I have no idea.
I can’t force a conversation. I can’t force you to feel better and get out of the dark hole that is depression. But I can tell you that if you need to talk, there’s always someone there to listen. It could be a friend, a family member, or a stranger at the gas station.
Sometimes, nothing can be done. I understand that. But it doesn’t always have to end in death.
Start a conversation. Ask if someone’s okay. Be there for them if they need you.
Because your conversation could save a life.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline:
Suicide Prevention Text Line:
Text CONNECT to 741741 in the United States.
Suicide Prevention Online Chat: