“He taught me that travel wasn’t always about comfort, that it wasn’t always pretty. That if it really doesn’t shake you up, you are a probably doing it all wrong,” writes Monika Manchanda.
“No one in their right mind would want to become a chef”. I remember being very amused by this starting line of the book Kitchen Confidential when I first read it years ago. It is only now after spending countless hours in the commercial kitchens that I truly understand the meaning of it. That line was my introduction to Anthony Bourdain, someone who I look up to as one of my food heroes. And that line signifies so much of what Anthony really was. Brutally honest and straightforward, never the one to mince words and yet soaking in it all. A chef par excellence, a writer so magical that he had the power to transport people to where he was with the simplest of words. And oh one cannot forget that voice of his, strong yet soothing guiding us through the nooks and corners of his travels.
In fact, he was my introduction to the world of food and travel writing. Growing up in a middle-class Indian family, travel was checking into a hotel in a hill station, walking on the mall road and coming back to the hotel meal. And since my dad was a bank employee, the hotel was more often than not a guesthouse and the meal cooked by the caretaker. I had no desire or even the remotest idea that I could discover local food and through it the culture of the place. I had no idea that food could be more than what I ate for sustenance.
It was reading him and watching his shows that made me realise that I am really living in my own sweet bubble and that I have been doing this travel thing all wrong. That travel is about observing small things, eating local food, getting to know people of the place. That it is about accepting the differences between us and them as just that – differences. He taught me that travel wasn’t always about comfort, that it wasn’t always pretty. That if it really doesn’t shake you up, you are a probably doing it all wrong.
It was him who showed me that it is possible for a tall white man to stand in a roadside restaurant in Mumbai and yet blend into the crowd and enjoy the food.
It was him who showed me that it is possible for a tall white man to stand in a roadside restaurant in Mumbai and yet blend into the crowd and enjoy the food. It was him that introduced me to the streets of Thailand and the world of insects. It was him who told me it is alright to be unabashedly in love with meat. He treated every food he ate with the same respect. It was as if he treated food like humans, with empathy, honesty and curiosity. And I owe a large part of my curiosity of food to him. And for that, I will always be grateful.
He really was one of the first food heroes many of us had. And with him gone, the loss feels personal. It is almost like one of us is gone.
And as I write this today I feel I have an Anthony shaped hole in my heart. A hole that no one will ever be able to fill. Anthony to me (and I guess so many of us from our generation) was more than just a TV celebrity. He really was one of the first food heroes many of us had. And with him gone, the loss feels personal. It is almost like one of us is gone.
But if there is one thing I know, it is that he will continue to enjoy and tell stories in whichever culinary heaven is! He will live in his legacy, the legacy of inspiring a whole generation to look at food and travel in a way that was never done before.
RIP, Anthony Bourdain the world is a slightly better place because of what you taught us. The world also feels like a slightly empty place now that you have gone.
“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.”
― Anthony Bourdain, No Reservations: Around the World on an Empty Stomach
Monika Manchanda is a Food Consultant & Writer, Baker and a Culinary Trainer. The views expressed are the author’s own.
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