16 Most Memorable Quotes From Anthony Bourdain
Anthony Bourdain always spoke his mind. The irreverent celebrity chef never seemed afraid to be criticized for his opinions. And his opinions were numerous (and often funny). Bourdain also never seemed to fear telling the truth. And his fans love him for revealing the secrets of the restaurant industry, confronting the brutal realities of life everywhere he traveled, and talking about the importance of empathy and understanding.
Unsurprisingly, Anthony Bourdain left behind many quotes that will continue to inspire and enlighten his fans for years to come. Below, check out the most memorable Anthony Bourdain quotes we never want to forget.
“I should’ve died in my 20s. I became successful in my 40s. I became a dad in my 50s. I feel like I’ve stolen a car — a really nice car — and I keep looking in the rearview mirror for flashing lights. But there’s been nothing yet.”
One of Anthony Bourdain’s most lovable qualities? How often — and irreverently — he voiced his gratitude for what had come his way in life. He once told Biography that he thought he was on his third life. (Maybe even his fourth.) And then he equated finding success in his forties and becoming a dad in his fifties to getting away with stealing “a really nice car.” It’s the perfect simile for the celebrity chef to have used.
“Your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park. Enjoy the ride.”
People reports that this quote came from one of Anthony Bourdain’s books, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly. Some people compare their bodies to a temple to emphasize the importance of a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle. But Anthony Bourdain never seemed like the kind of person to deprive himself of the good things in life. That includes culinary indulgences (and other vices).
“I’m a big believer in winging it. I’m a big believer that you’re never going to find perfect city travel experience or the perfect meal without a constant willingness to experience a bad one.”
The Telegraph counts this passage as one of the most memorable Anthony Bourdain quotes. This one reveals one of the celebrity chef’s best lessons on travel. After sharing the thoughts above, Bourdain went on. He explained, “Letting the happy accident happen is what a lot of vacation itineraries miss, I think.” He added, “I’m always trying to push people to allow those things to happen rather than stick to some rigid itinerary.”
“Meals make the society, hold the fabric together in lots of ways that were charming and interesting and intoxicating to me. The perfect meal, or the best meals, occur in a context that frequently has very little to do with the food itself.”
In an interview with BookPage about his book A Cook’s Tour: In Search of the Perfect Meal, Anthony Bourdain said that sharing a meal is about more than just sharing food. He explained that, ostensibly, it’s food that brings people together. (Especially when preparing the food becomes a time-consuming project or a traditional ritual.) But sitting down together for a meal offers a powerful way to bring people together. And Bourdain cultivated an appreciation for that throughout his career.
“Just be open. Don’t be afraid. If it’s appropriate to drink alcohol, drink heavily. Be smart, but be open to the world.”
Bon Appetit once asked Anthony Bourdain for some advice on learning from and fitting in with the locals wherever you travel. And in true Bourdain style, he had an irreverent but helpful answer. He noted that in many countries, complete strangers would happily invite you into their home. You may want to do some research on the culture. (And be aware of the locals’ attitudes toward Americans.) But if you open yourself up to new experiences instead of sticking with the typical tourist path, you’ll likely make more friends and experience much more of your destination.
“Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life — and travel — leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks — on your body or on your heart — are beautiful. Often, though, they hurt.”
Many people probably envied Anthony Bourdain his globetrotting lifestyle. But expanding your horizons isn’t always easy. Bourdain was honest about that. This quote, from Bourdain’s book The Nasty Bits: Collected Varietal Cuts, Usable Trim, Scraps, and Bones, reveals the celebrity chef at his most insightful. Seeing the world as Bourdain did isn’t the same as viewing it through the rose-colored glasses of a guided tour or a leisurely cruise. And the chef felt the impact of what he saw.
“I have the best job in the world. If I’m unhappy, it’s a failure of imagination.”
Anthony Bourdain repeatedly expressed amazement and gratitude for the life he found himself leading. (That sentiment now feels bittersweet when you read Bourdain’s quotes.) The New Yorker reported that Bourdain would sometimes say that he would stick with Parts Unknown “Until it’s not fun.” But he also gave the answer above on one occasion when asked how long he would continue filming. It’s impossible to know whether Bourdain’s perspective on the matter changed. But the quote does serve as a reminder of just how complicated people are.
“It’s a gloriously doomed enterprise. I’m in the business of finding great places, and then we fuck them up.”
In the same New Yorker profile, Anthony Bourdain talked about what happens when his show puts a restaurant on the map. “Anthropologists like to say that to observe a culture is usually, in some small way, to change it. A similar dictum holds true for Bourdain’s show,” Patrick Radden Keefe reported. “Whenever Bourdain discovers a hole-in-the-wall culinary gem, he places it on the tourist map, thereby leaching it of the authenticity that drew him to it in the first place.”
“Maybe that’s enlightenment enough: to know that there is no final resting place of the mind; no moment of smug clarity. Perhaps wisdom. . . is realizing how small I am, and unwise, and how far I have yet to go.”
Many people consider this one of the most memorable Anthony Bourdain quotes we can hold onto after his death. Delish reports that Bourdain was talking about his place in the world when he said, “It seems that the more places I see and experience, the bigger I realize the world to be. The more I become aware of, the more I realize how relatively little I know of it, how many places I have still to go, how much more there is to learn.” Then, he added the thoughts above, likely inspiring others to open themselves up to similar realizations.
“‘We got wiped out,’ I say. ‘Creamed. Are you okay?’ She wants to cry but doesn’t. ‘You did everything right,’ I say. ‘You held your breath. You stayed calm.'”
In an essay called “Beach Town” for the Seashore issue of now-defunct Lucky Peach magazine, Anthony Bourdain took a lyrical walk down memory lane. He wrote about Provincetown, a Cape Cod town where he began his culinary career and spent a lot of time throughout his life. In that essay, Bourdain describes taking his young daughter to the beach. The two of them get knocked down by a wave, and the exchange above ensues. In the final passage of the essay, Bourdain describes cooking clams for her. He writes, “She takes the first taste of my childhood. ‘They’re good, Dada,’ she says. And I am very happy.”
“For me, the cooking life has been a long love affair, with moments both sublime and ridiculous. But like a love affair, looking back you remember the happy times best —the things that drew you in, attracted you in the first place, the things that kept you coming back for more.”
When you look back at your favorite Anthony Bourdain quotes, chances are good that they reveal the celebrity chef confronting dualities and dichotomies. In the quote above, from Bourdain’s book Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, the chef alludes to the way that building a career doing something you love can be both fulfilling and frustrating. Bourdain focuses on the good parts. But he acknowledges that negative feelings are just as valid as positive ones.
“I have come to realize with certainty, however, that I have the best job in the world. And that I work with some of the finest people on it. To be able to go wherever I want, when I want, do what I want, and then tell stories about what I’ve experienced is an incredible privilege. Who gets to do what I do? And when you’re that damned lucky, how do you stop? How do you ever get off the ride? And why would you?”
When Anthony Bourdain died of suicide, many fans wondered why he’d leave his life behind. (Especially given this and other memorable Anthony Bourdain quotes.) That’s a tough question to confront. Especially because in Bourdain’s case, French authorities said they suspect “that not much preparation and premeditation went into the act.”
But as Vox reports, experts say that suicides — and growing suicide rates — are not caused by a single factor, even mental health conditions. Rose McGowan — a friend of Bourdain’s girlfriend, Asia Argento — wrote of Bourdain, “His depression won.” But she also characterized suicide as something “which we do not understand, that which can never fully be understood.”
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