Anthony Bourdain, the celebrity chef who was recently found deceased after an apparent suicide, was mourned by millions worldwide. This is due not only to his contribution to the food industry but his role as an almost political journalist while exploring the world in his series "Parts Unknown".
The globetrotting American was well known for his outspoken nature and his blunt manner on screen, as well as in his many books. Bourdain used his public platform to speak out for causes he felt strongly about. Here is a rundown of some of his most lasting contributions on pertinent political issues.
One of the most groundbreaking episodes of Bourdain-hosted TV series "Parts Unknown" was on Jerusalem, and the Palestinian area of the Gaza Strip.
Bourdain himself highlighted the continuing atrocities in the conflict many times, and while receiving a Muslim Public Affairs Council award on Palestine, made sure to call for mutual human respect:
The chef made a point to depict and comment on the humanity of the people in front of him, their lives and how oppression was woven into their daily routines. This empathy with the Palestinian populace was the first time American audiences had been exposed to them in such a light and is remembered to this day:
One can be forgiven for thinking, when you see how similar they are, that two peoples, both of whom cook with pride, eat with passion ... who are locked in such an intimate, if deadly, embrace, might somehow, someday, figure out how to live with each otherAnthony Bourdain (via CNN)
Bourdain also ventured into Iran, and in 2014 reported how the perceptions were very different from the ground realities of the country. His initial reaction went from confused to pointing out incidents of everyday life.
Below is a two minute insight into his work and style of mixing the political and cultural perspective with the personal and individual in the foreground.
Bourdain’s comments in the episode and beyond are not always re-conciliatory, but stress upon not villainising an entire civilisation based on often overblown preconceptions.
In Tehran, in spite of the fact that you are standing in front of a giant, snarling mural that reads ‘DEATH TO AMERICA!,’ we found that you will usually be treated better by strangers... than anywhere in Western EuropeAnthony Bourdain via CNN
Despite all permits and paperwork being in order, we’re detained for several hours. This sort of harassment is a daily part of life for Iranians.Anthony Bourdain (via Eater)
On Trump and Trumpism
As somebody who had travelled the world and appreciated various people and cultures, Bourdain was a natural foil to Presidential-hopeful and now US President, Donald Trump. From opposing his agenda to bashing his misogynistic words and actions, the celebrity chef used his popularity to publicly oppose the President.
I can’t see the point [in having dinner with Trump], he only talks about himself and he’s only interested in himself. I can’t see that as being scintillating dinner conversation. Plus he eats his steak well done. I think that really settles it.Anthony Bourdain (to the NY Daily News)
Immigrants Especially Had His Ear
The two men differed significantly on immigrants too. Bourdain saw America’s immigrant chefs as being the future of a multicultural US culinary scene, and often featured them and their work in his imprint, Anthony Bourdain Books. He often called immigrant kitchen workers “the backbone of the industry”.
If Mr. Trump deports 11 million people or whatever he’s talking about right now, every restaurant in America would shut down.Anthony Bourdain (via Forbes)
In 2012, Bourdain tweeted lamenting the fact that the prestigious James Beard Foundation Awards failed to recognise Mexican culinary talent.
Bourdain’s advocacy for vulnerable communities around the world included the undocumented worker in his very home country, and he advocated for paths to citizenship to be open to those people who were “long-employed, tax paying, non felonious kitchen help...", and his passing is a tragic loss these people which were helped by his words.
Socially and self-aware, Bourdain’s nuanced comments with regards to women’s rights and the #MeToo movement are some of the most reflective and insightful on the issue. He was personally touched by the movement as his girlfriend, Asia Argento, was one of the first women who spoke about producer Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assaults within the film industry.
Hearing about the personal stories of women facing harassment in the wake of Weinstein being exposed, he had guilt and one question to ask himself.
Bourdain was especially vocal on reports of harassment in the restaurant industry, reacting to allegations against chefs John Besh and Mario Batali
On Cambodia and Kissinger
To finish, here is a trademark Bourdain quote that showcases his no-holds barred and sincerely profound attitude towards the world he saw around him. Always speaking with integrity and standing up for things he believed in, Anthony Bourdain – and all his charisma – will be missed.