He was a chef, an author, an adventurer, and a beloved TV host. Anthony Bourdain's death at 61 was a crushing blow for those who watched and loved his show, Parts Unknown, and all the places and cultures he opened people's eyes to. Amid the outpour of grief over his death, many remembered him for what he tried to do on his show, and this tweet about Bourdain spoke to why Parts Unknown was far more than your standard food and travel series.
"Anthony Bourdain had one of the only shows on tv [sic] that tried with all its might to teach Americans not to be scared of other people," Twitter user Allison F. wrote.
CNN confirmed the news of Bourdain's death in a statement on Friday morning. "It is with extraordinary sadness we can confirm the death of our friend and colleague, Anthony Bourdain," the network said. "His love of great adventure, new friends, fine food and drink and the remarkable stories of the world made him a unique storyteller. His talents never ceased to amaze us and we will miss him very much. Our thoughts and prayers are with his daughter and family at this incredibly difficult time."
Since 2013, when Bourdain joined CNN for Parts Unknown, he expanded expectations and pushed the boundaries of what a food and travel series looked like, both in terms of the issues it tackled and the way Bourdain approached cultures far-flung from the United States. To many people, Parts Unknown was a food and travel show, sure, but it also expanded world views and challenged stereotypes of different cultures in a way that other shows and its hosts did not.
It was a show in which Bourdain discussed the seemingly intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict; had dinner in Moscow with Boris Nemtsov, a vocal Putin critic who was assassinated months after the episode aired; and danced and drank tuak with locals in a longhouse in Sarawak, Malaysia. And Bourdain did it all with a curiosity and respect that many are remembering him for.
Parts Unknown was a very different series than what was out there, but in his first show, No Reservations, Bourdain drew viewers in with that same enthusiasm and energy. Though decidedly less politically charged, No Reservations also spoke to how he viewed the world and how he tried to connect his viewers with the cultures and people he encountered.
As tributes to Bourdain poured in, many remembered him as a gifted storyteller who had a bigger lesson to teach. "Bourdain was magic," activist and educator Kelly Wickham Hurst tweeted. "He forced us to reconcile with our settler colonialism while also not limiting or reducing people to their culture. He did all the right things for anti-racism and he did it with the love language of food."
The praise for Parts Unknown has been there since the show began, 11 seasons ago. But Bourdain himself, it seemed, saw what he did more simply. In a New Yorker profile from 2017, Bourdain described his job while in Hanoi, Vietnam, with his signature boisterous attitude. He told journalist Patrick Radden Keefe: "I travel around the world, eat a lot of shit, and basically do whatever the fuck I want."
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