annually on June 25th (since 2019)
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The life, legacy, and birthday of world-traveling culinarian and storyteller Anthony Bourdain is celebrated today. Created by José Andrés and Eric Ripert, fellow chefs and friends of Bourdain, who announced it with a video, Bourdain Day is celebrated with the sharing of tributes and memories of Anthony Bourdain.
Bourdain achieved rockstar status—a rare feat for a cook—and his suicide in 2018 devastated his fans, who felt a strong connection to him. He traveled the world and ate food in just about any location possible. In the process, he demonstrated the power of a shared meal to bring people together, the diversity of cuisines and cultures, and also, in contrast, that no matter where people are from, they very much are alike. He was a storyteller and explorer of the human condition who used food as his landscape. His ethos, which drew so many to him, can be summed up with his own words: "If I'm an advocate for anything, it's to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. Walk in someone else's shoes or at least eat their food. It's a plus for everybody."
Anthony Bourdain grew up in Leonia, New Jersey, and began working in kitchens at the age of 13. He later said he learned the most important lessons of his life as a dishwasher. But addiction took hold of him when he was in his twenties, and he became hooked on heroin for a time. He went to Vassar College in New York State for two years before dropping out and enrolling in culinary school. He then worked as a line cook and sous chef at a number of restaurants in the Northeast, before becoming the executive chef at Brasserie Les Halles in Manhattan.
In 1999, after publishing two suspense novels, Bourdain's article "Don't Eat Before Reading This" appeared in The New Yorker, garnering him some attention. In it he captured kitchen life and the characters of the underbelly he came across while working there, saying, "In America, the professional kitchen is the last refuge of the misfit. It's a place for people with bad pasts to find a new family." The article set the groundwork for and led to the book Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, released the following year, which was a best-seller and brought Bourdain widespread fame. Bourdain followed it up with A Cook's Tour: In Search of a Perfect Meal.
Then came television. Four shows over sixteen years brought viewers to the far corners of the world, where food and conversation underpinned an exploration of culture. Bourdain's first show, A Cook's Tour, was adapted from his book and aired on the Food Network in 2002 and 2003. Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations debuted on the Travel Channel in 2005. It received over a dozen Emmy Award nominations and had two wins over its nine seasons. The Layover, also on the Travel Channel, aired from 2011 to 2013.
In 2013, Bourdain moved to CNN with Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown. It won five Emmy Awards and a Peabody Award for "expanding our palates and horizons in equal measure." Tragically, Bourdain died of suicide on June 8, 2018, while in France working on an upcoming episode of Parts Unknown. He was 61. Although he is no longer with us, his life and legacy live on in his robust body of work and with Bourdain Day.
How to Observe Bourdain Day
Share a tribute or memory of Anthony Bourdain along with the hashtag #BourdainDay. Then you could celebrate his life, legacy, and birthday in a number of ways:
- Read one of his books, such as Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, A Cook's Tour: In Search of a Perfect Meal, or No Reservations: Around the World on an Empty Stomach.
- Read "Don't Eat Before Reading This," the New Yorker article that set him on a path to fame.
- Read a book about him.
- Watch Remembering Anthony Bourdain.
- Watch Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain.
- Watch episodes of A Cook's Tour, Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, The Layover, or Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown.
- Read remembrances of Bourdain from his fans.
- Eat at a place he ate. Visit a place he visited. Read some of his quotes. Above all, move—"As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river."