Journalist, filmmaker, author, explorer, raconteur and chef Anthony Bourdain was found dead in his hotel room in France on Friday. He was 61. During his career as an author and documentary filmmaker for television, Bourdain visited Austin multiple times to shoot episodes of his TV shows and speak at the Paramount Theater and South by Southwest. Austin chefs and food-lovers, writers and fans of Bourdain around the world are reacting to the news.
(Hear my thoughts on the passing of Bourdain here, from my conversation on 104.9 The Horn Friday afternoon.)
CNN confirmed that Bourdain committed suicide. If you or anyone you know is battling depression or thoughts of suicide, please know there is help out there and recovery is possible. And please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline phone number at 1-800-273-8255. Chefs with Issues is also a resource if you are struggling and work in the food world. Locally, you can call 512-472-4357 to connect with mental health services.
Barbecue legend John Mueller, currently of John Mueller Black Box Barbecue in Georgetown, appeared on the Austin episode of Bourdain’s “No Reservations” in season eight:
“Huge fan of his work. His style of storytelling was amazing as he made you feel like you were there. When I was privileged enough to meet him he was laid back, gracious, and we had one hell of a time.” — John Mueller
2012, last 'busy' night of SXSW, last table, last straw for the entire team (We were all very tired and needed a rest). He ate with The Shins and Sleigh Bells. He did not hesitate to say hello and actually hang with us for a few moments. We asked him after the meal. This is the person that helped my parents understand why in the hell I wanted to be in the kitchen all my waking moments. He helped highlight the other side of it all and progressed the ideals of what the modern hospitality industry was up to. My current sous chef now told him that night, straight up, you made me wanna cook, not be a chef, but a cook. This picture will always be a great memory and the people in it made it so awesome. We almost all got in a verbal spat this service, but cooking for our champion Anthony Bourdain wiped all that away. He was our voice, our reason, our mentor, our trailblazer. So much more can be said, but may all the dishes we cook today be a reminder that life is precious and we all have a purpose, cook hard today! Peace be with you and thank you chef.
RIP. I hope this suicide is able to spark conversations about living with mental illness in and around the restaurant world. Depression among chefs and cooks is a real thing and is so rarely talked about because of stigma and the “suck it up” mentality of the job. Hoping for (and working towards) big and small changes in kitchens of the future and today.