Anthony Bourdain committed suicide one year and three days ago. I remember it distinctly not because how little time has passed since, but because of how strange it felt to be so distraught over someone passing that I had never even had the pleasure of meeting. But if you were a fan, you almost certainly felt like you knew him.
During the same time as his passing, I had just kicked off my stint at Action Mary and as they say, it was the calm before the client storm. I was getting acclimated, ramping and found I had some time to reflect. On the morning he passed I wrote an email to my collective colleagues with the subject line “A little about the new guy…” Here’s an excerpt of my thoughts that day.
“At first, I was just a decent pizza maker, but I later turned into a great line cook. In his groundbreaking book, Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain wrote about cooks. Not chefs, cooks. Bourdain is famous for his career as a writer, a TV star, even a chef. But the truth is, he wasn’t a chef until a few years before he became famous. In actuality, for the majority of his culinary career, Bourdain was a line cook. There’s a big difference between a chef and a cook. The chefs are the quarterbacks of the kitchen, the cooks are the supporting staff. I was never a chef; I was a good cook. There’s a difference that’s distinct and he knew it, too.”
Anthony Bourdain was cool and made me feel like being a cook was VERY cool. His impact was so substantial because he truly was one of the great storytellers of our time. He was captivating. He drew you in with his enthusiasm, his humor, his approachability, his language, and his charm. He told stories that were incredibly human, and beautifully relatable.
As a marketer, I strive daily to tell meaningful, powerful human stories on behalf of Adidas, Pacific Seafood and Tree Top using a lot of what I learned from him. As an agency the work we do is to always combine storytelling with passion, purpose, and expertise, knowing that great change can come from this intersection. At the end of the day, a great story can change a life, a product, a brand, an entire industry, and our world.
Imagine how many more people, places, and cuisines we’d come to know if Anthony Bourdain hadn’t taken his life. It’s a tragedy, even for a cook.
*Humble brag: I’ll soon have my Anthony Bourdain moment, as I was just offered an opportunity to cook one of my favorite recipes on the local Portland NBC-affiliate morning show. Check in on this link in the afternoon of July 11 and see me cook up something delicious. Hopefully, my main man, Bourdain is looking down and nodding in approval of this cook.