Anthony Bourdain’s death is an event of collective memory. It’s a day that you never forget where you were or what you were doing when you saw the “RIP” proliferating on Twitter and Instagram. In utter disbelief, I remember sitting in my office where I supposed to be writing about food. It felt like a wholly dumb endeavor considering the news. Bourdain, the chef and world traveler and renown crank, died by suicide on June 8, 2018. Today would have been his 65th birthday. In light of the latter anniversary, let’s take a brief walk through Tony’s Texas moments.
Tony didn’t hang in Dallas much, it would seem; especially not in front of the camera lens, at least. There aren’t any episodes of No Reservations, Parts Unknown, or The Layover dedicated to our North Texas city. He made stops in Austin with Texas Monthly barbecue editor Daniel Vaughn and ate fish tacos with grungy rockers.
He’s dug into Congolese food—and much more—in the diverse food city of Houston. “Intolerant, prejudice, close-minded—I’m talking about me, not Texas,” Bourdain quips on the Houston episode of Parts Unknown. Bourdain was not one to miss an opportunity to verbally jab some place for its stereotypes, only to thoroughly dismiss the bullshit later.
His usual way of cutting through misconceptions is evident when he visits Far West Texas (season 12, episode five of Parts Unknown). From eating cabrito with ranchers to the tourist-art-cowboy town of Marfa, Bourdain takes a bite out a region whose rugged terrain make bite you back.
Meanwhile here, back in the city, I’m thinking of all the chefs who’ve long admired Bourdian. Dallas chef John Tesar of Knife spoke to CBSDFW back in 2018, remembering his old friend: “He had a unifying force, a charisma, through an avant-garde voice and a way of doing things that was bringing everything and everybody back together.”
I’m reminded of walking through Deep Ellum recently. I stopped and gazed at Bourdain’s face composed in grayscale. You’ll find it on the side of Niwa BBQ, the website for which has a famous Bourdain quote: “You learn a lot about someone when you share a meal together.”
There’s few people in the food world who don’t hold Bourdain in high esteem to this day. So on this day, his birthday, maybe take a page out of Tony’s book: Get out, share a meal, throw a middle finger up to the bullshit.