Watching Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown” series is at once a celebration and melancholy. Reflecting on the Netflix series has allowed me to revel in the profound depth and absolute amazing depth of diversity that exists on our planet while I marvel at the commonality we share as humans in a big world that has never been smaller.
Many have written and commented on the life and sudden demise of the popular chef and host of CNN’s “Parts Unknown“. He was rich, famous and dashing. He had the world on a string. Were there signs of depression or hopelessness in those last episodes? Didn’t his producer or crew see it coming? Were there no harbingers of hope or purveyors of the gospel near?
Bourdain stands stoically as journalist; the famous CNN reporter asking the hard questions and pushing boundaries. He frequently looks gaunt and even frail wandering about distant and isolated cities, sometimes looking as if he’s coming off a bender.
He was incredible at aiming fresh eyes at locales and cultures. He found the features and areas that were off the “beaten path” and described cultures and cultural artifacts in a way that was astute and timely. His sensibilities were never cliche. He was not susceptible to trending opinion or easy answers. His show displayed and proclaimed unique and honest integrity from all corners of the world without preference to colonialist or nationalist persuasion.
His instinct for cuisine and his appetite was open to indigenous and ancient palettes. It never seemed that he was trying new tastes, it was as if he had sampled everything and knew when he was tasting the best. As a chef, he was bold and at least on camera would taste anything.
There was an episode where a Brazilian madman was randomly shooting toward a restaurant where he was dining. His cameraman and producer both dived in to protect him. He was not impressed, nor did he seem grateful. This was his real penchant, after all his accomplishment, fame and acclaim, he did not seem hungry for more nor ingratiated by his outcome[s]. In hindsight, he had frequently told his viewers that he traveled 50 weeks a year.
Life lost is always a shame, but when it appears that one has chosen suicide out of desperation it is dreadful. Considering the pain Bourdain was experiencing makes it seem so much worse. I’m reminded that this life is merely as stage upon which we prepare for eternity. Even someone who seemingly has it all felt that life was meaningless. He was quoted to say that though his father was Jewish, “I have never been in a synagogue . . . “