Content Warning: This post contains specific references to suicide and Anthony Bourdain’s death. If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues, help is available. Call 1-877-SAMHSA7 or 1-800-273-TALK for 24/7 confidential support.
June 25, 2023 would have been Anthony Bourdain’s 67th birthday; instead, we find ourselves passing the 5th anniversary of his death and still feeling the void left by his suicide.
As part of the mourning process, several of Bourdain’s chef friends – Eric Ripert and José Andrés – decided to honor his memory by declaring his birthday “Anthony Bourdain Day.” On this day, fans celebrate Tony by doing any number of activities they think he might have approved of, ranging from drinking a negroni (his favorite cocktail) to seeking out different, memorable, or affordable foods.
If you want to celebrate Anthony Bourdain Day this year and mark five years since the chef, world traveler, and TV’s star’s death, you won’t be alone. Many of us will “celebrate” in different ways – myself included – and I wanted to put together a resource to share some ideas for respectful ways to do so.
Below you’ll find my best ideas for celebrating Anthony Bourdain’s life, and I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments too.
Miss you, Tony.
1. Raise a Negroni
It is well documented that the Negroni was one of Anthony Bourdain’s favorite drinks; even if you don’t personally love the bitter flavors of this distinctive drink, Anthony Bourdain Day is one excuse to suck it up – literally.
Looking for inspiration on how to make one in the style Tony preferred? He shared his favorite version on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon back in 2013.
2. Read Bourdain’s Writing
While I haven’t yet an entire article about all of Tony’s writing, you might be surprised at just how much he wrote during his writing career – even though it was almost twenty years.
If you haven’t yet read Kitchen Confidential, that is – of course – essential for all Bourdain enthusiasts. Other essential Bourdain works include “Don’t Eat Before Reading This,” the 1999 New Yorker article that started it all, and No Reservations: Around the World on an Empty Stomach, which went behind-the-scenes on his show of the same name.
3. Watch Tony on TV
Speaking of shows, you could do a lot worse than honoring Tony by watching some episodes of his various shows as a way to celebrate Anthony Bourdain Day. While it’s highly subjective which episodes are the “best,” I think we can agree that Parts Unknown was his best show – and some of the best episodes can be found in the 12 seasons of that show. Here are some highlights:
- No Reservations, season 2, episode 13(?); season 6, episode 21 & Parts Unknown, season 5, episode 8: Beirut – The episodes that propelled Bourdain onto the world stage with his first Emmy.
- No Reservations, season 4, episode 11 & Parts Unknown, season 3, episode 9: Laos – Two very similar episodes that show Tony’s progression as a creator over his career.
- No Reservations, season 7, episode 2: El Bulli – Before the world-famous restaurant closed, Tony had a chance to go behind the scenes and enjoy an incredible meal.
- Parts Unknown, season 2, episode 4: Copenhagen – Meeting up with chef Rene Redzepi in his hometown for a food tour and bucket list-worthy meal at noma.
- Parts Unknown, season 8, episode 1: Hanoi – Bourdain’s iconic meal with Obama as part of exploring his favorite country. (Any Vietnam episode is good!)
- Parts Unknown, season 10, episode 1: French Alps – Tony and Eric Ripert explore the latter’s childhood and torture the former with hiking and other alpine activities.
- Parts Unknown, season 12, episode 2: Asturias – Bourdain with another chef-fried, José Andrés, in Andrés’ home region of Spain.
This is just a starting point though – you could always just head over to the Explore page here on ELB and look for a destination you love to watch the episode(s) Tony filmed there.
4. Try a New, Strange, or Unusual Food
Anthony Bourdain was quite fearless about food, though he never really wanted to be known for eating strange things. That said, he was also willing to try almost anything, especially if it was prepared with care by a local person hosting him.
While I don’t expect you to eat swallows (Laos) or cobra hearts (Ho Chi Minh City), you could always head out to a place or neighborhood you’ve never visited and try a new cuisine or dish. In short, put yourself out of your comfort zone and try something new – it will change the way you understand the world.
5. Treat Yourself to a Bucket List Meal
Bourdain’s whole career was full of bucket list meals, but honoring his legacy is as good a reason as any to make a reservation for a particularly special meal for you.
Some of the generally considered “bucket list” restaurants he visited include:
- Canlis in Seattle
- noma in Copenhagen (where I’m eating in August!)
- St. John in London (also in August!)
- The French Laundry in Napa Valley
- Le Bernardin in New York
- Asador Etxebarri near San Sebastián (where I’m visiting next May!)
He also had a list of the places to eat before you die – some of which aren’t as budget blow-out as these ones.
6. Seek Out Cheap Eats
Conversely to these incredible spots that most people would save up to enjoy a meal at, Tony was also notoriously good at finding cheap eats and “street meats” that were equally delicious for way fewer dollars.
Instead of (or perhaps in addition to) trying something wacky or blowing your restaurant budget, you could do some research into the local, cheap eats available in your area and try them to celebrate Anthony Bourdain Day this year.
Think food stands, food trucks, random stalls, farmers markets with food vendors… all of these places will have awesome, affordable foods that echo the sentiment that Bourdain knew well: you don’t have to spend a lot to eat well if you eat local.
7. Cook One of Tony’s Favorite Dishes
While I’ve already mentioned Anthony Bourdain’s books, I didn’t include any of his cookbooks on that list. He did publish cookbooks though: Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook and Appetites. Both of these could serve as inspiration for trying to up your own cooking game by making one of the recipes therein.
You might also seek out other recipes for foods Tony loved. I’ve been tracking some of his favorites (that he would order) while watching so many episodes of his shows, and they include:
- Pieds paquets
- Shrimp & Grits
- Cacio e Pepe
Many of these are available online or in Bourdain’s cookbooks with his favorite way of preparing them.
8. Donate to Suicide Prevention
Last but certainly not least: while we know Tony didn’t reach out for help, there are people who do reach out in their darkest hours and are supported by suicide prevention services. It wouldn’t have saved Bourdain, but you could honor Tony’s memory by helping save someone else.
Two that I support are 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline (formerly the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) and The Trevor Project (which supports LGBTQ+ people in crisis, and is especially fitting as June is also Pride Month).
Whichever one you choose, you can do this small act in honor of Anthony Bourdain and his life.
How will you celebrate Anthony Bourdain day this year? Let me know your ideas in the comments.