Behind the closed doors of professional kitchens around the world, there are several names that are spoken and treated with godly levels of admiration amongst those in our industry. One could argue that the only thing missing are little altars with photos of those culinary masters set beside candles, the type of scene you’d see in a place of religion – or in our case, a sacrificial room fit for a cult. A place where chefs would perform sacrilegious acts and chant to the great deity of, say, Joel Robuchon whenever guests ordered well-done steaks and we gasped in horror, we were apologizing to our master for what we’re about to do to the beautiful piece of meat about to be butchered in the oven.

I’d be willing to bet that the only reason cooks don’t have those altars in our kitchens is because we neither have the space, nor could we explain such a sight to our best friends at the health department; it’s a sight we couldn’t hide unlike the many other things we get away with, in secret.

Having said that, there are a few cooks who have been able to leave a mark on the world outside that of kitchens. Cooks that have sent ripples across pop culture and made a name for themselves within the civilian population. The guys, and gals whom even your aunt, who orders well-done steaks and refuses to tip waiting staff, has heard of. In our case, I’m speaking about a man who needs no introduction, a cook who made a name for himself by exploring the world over, stepping into cultures only true travellers would dare set foot in prior to him – not your typical Instagram/Food Network travel show type of thing. I’m speaking of Anthony Bourdain.

Tony Bourdain became much more than just the chef who opened the door to the depravity and twisted beauty of being a chef for the world to read about; taking the spotlight away from those Sunday morning cooking shows with hosts that would somehow manage to slice a finger off using a Gillette razor, if ever they had to hold one. Tony became a voice for the underlings behind the stove the world over and became a symbol for struggling addicts as someone who was able to overcome addiction and go on to have an exemplary career.

Kitchen Porters / Dishwashers are the backbone of a kitchen and you can’t have a smooth service without them, irrespective if Ramsay is behind the pass. Hell, I recall the many times I’ve been more dependent on the KP to give me back a piece of equipment in an instant, than I could count the times I depended on a commis to run to the fridge and get me parsley instead of a bunch of cilantro in the midst of a manic evening rush. The dish pit is a paradoxical place; they’re places where probably the dirtiest and grimiest jobs in restaurants are performed dishes are scrubbed of excess food and leftovers into elbow-deep pools of murky water. It looks ugly from the outside – and uglier up close. The humidity levels are extreme and there are generally no windows anywhere; yet, so many including Tony, have found salvation in these dish pits. “Dishwashing saved my life, it was the first time I went home respecting myself, respecting others.” Tony noted in an interview with Rossetto Kasper of Splendid Table.

“Cooks hadn’t gotten a chance to see themselves until Bourdain painted us and our story in the pages of his books and the narration of his travels.” – P.G. McNabb, Anthony Bourdain’s Legacy in an Addicted Line Cook



Matter of fact, Bourdain’s depiction of Justo Thomas – the now famous Dominican-American fish butcher at Le Bernadin under Eric Ripert who could butcher 700lbs of fish by himself daily, was part of the inspiration behind Humans of the Kitchen. Tony devotes an entire chapter of the book ‘Medium Raw’ to Justo Thomasfollowing his daily routine, explaining the method to his madness and completely taking the back seat on the ride to showcase and emphasize his amazement with the work Thomas does.

Later on still, Tony grew to be a voice for the minorities behind the local favourites in every city he ever visited when he became a travel show host, able to seamlessly bond with just about anyone, anywhere, in his hunger to explore cultures for what they truly were. More than just wanting to travel and eat in every corner of the world though, came Tony’s curiosity to explore beyond the dishes in front of him. “I felt I could trust him to see what I saw in Trinidad, as if the heart of the country would be safe in his hands as a person and traveller. You trusted him with your heritage.” Shivana Sookdeo

After being extracted from Beirut’s beaches by the US Marines while filming an episode of Parts Unknown in 2006, he’d go on to note this as his turning point to be more than just an uncensored travel show host.

“The days of happy horseshit – the uplifting sum-up at the end of every show, the reflex inclusion of a food scene in every act. That ended right there. […] there were realities beyond what was on my plate, and those realities almost inevitably informed what was, or was not, for dinner.

This turn of events would lead Bourdain to become, essentially, an exploratory journalist on top of already being a curious chef afflicted with a bad case of the wanderlust, whose mission became to uncover the lives of those in the shadows. Parts Unknown would go on to become a multi Emmy nominated show, known the world over for its honest portrayal of culture and everyday life. It’s a feat that was so ironically and criminally uncommon that the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) would later award Tony with the “Voices of Courage and Conscience” media award for his work, and would go on to be recalled as, “one of the most powerful voices for inclusion in [the U.S] by Sue Obeidi, Hollywood Bureau Director at MPAC.

It would be an injustice for me to write here a quote or two from Anthony’s many travels and interviews – or even quotes from his books; doing so would mean to limit what he’s said to a small number of quotes, making it a crime in itself and an insult to Tony. And I would need pages’ worth of space to include them all in order to truly encompass just how many eyeopening things Tony said over the course of his career after Kitchen Confidential. Everything, from his philosophy on travelling, to that of eating and his unwavering belief in the cooks that grind it out on the day-to-day and his desire to highlight them, irrespective of what corner of the world he may be in. Hop over to Vice if you want a list of stuff he’s said, they’ve got you covered. I will, however, include a quote here from Chris Bourdain on Tony’s legacy.

“Nobody showed what it’s really like on the ground in Libya, in Laos, in Congo, in a rural area of West Virginia – those were Tony’s most wonderful and artistic works. They’re beautifully produced, informative and showing you a reality on tv that nobody is showing. Nobody, nobody.”

Tony, I’ll be bold and argue that I speak on behalf of all the cooks across the globe that you’ve inspired, and on behalf of the team behind Humans. You may not be here, and we may not be in New Jersey to toast at your favourite restaurants; but across the world, we’ll toast together in your memory, and all you did for us and the world.