Anthony Bourdain's Mark on Seattle—and the World—Will Live On
I was going to write about Negroni Week, badass collab dinners, and ice cream flavor releases this morning (and I still will, so don't worry, we'll get to that eventually). But it feels incredibly silly—wrong even—to write about food and drink today in light of the recent news of Anthony Bourdain's death.
This was a man who made his mark, often great and sometimes with a heavy dose of adamant nostalgia, in the food world from the farthest corners of the earth to our little nook in the Pacific Northwest. He was many things to many people—a father, a chef, an author, a culinary interpreter, an ally, a former addict, a martial artist, a friend, a smug jokester, a travel guide sans overwrought frills or BS—and that's a lot for one person to be.
He was also a hot-take factory, and damn if we didn't love him for it. We traveled alongside him, wherever he went, and when the wanderlust dust settled, if it was ever kicked up in the first place, Bourdain would giddily point out a place's flaws or political strife because it's what shapes a culture's cuisines. There's nothing more political, he famously said, than food.
Here are some moments when Bourdain left his mark on Seattle.
1: Pacific Northwest Episode of No Reservations
While it wasn't his first foray onto the screen, it was on his Travel Channel show No Reservations that, in 2007, we saw Seattle through Bourdain's eyes and taste buds. Finally in season three, he came to the Pacific Northwest, where he ate avantgarde Voo Doo doughnuts, went to Pike Place Market, and is arguably responsible for the perpetual line at Piroshky Piroshky.
“Seattle. Gateway to the Pacific Northwest, or a city of java junkies, jacked on caffeine? Their relentless craving for things to eat, better ways of doing things, higher quality of life—the music, the menace to our nation—airplanes, computers, shrimp cocktail. Can our nation really afford an entire city obsessed with improving everything?” (We're still trying to figure it out. It's complicated.)
2: A Layover in Seattle
In 2013, Bourdain returned to film a season two episode of his subsequent Travel Channel show, The Layover, which Seattle Met deputy editor and dining authority Allecia Vermillion so thoroughly recapped five years ago. In this season finale, dude came to eat. He name-drops some 20 restaurants and bars throughout the episode, and shared meals with the likes of Tom Douglas, Renee Erickson, and Matt Dillon at some of our city's most beloved dining institutions Canlis and Rob Roy.
And when he wasn't obsessing over serial killers—we have a lot, okay, we know!—or eye-rolling at Seattle's coffee culture, which we will defend for eternity, he was recommending Sitka and Spruce. He called Dillon's restaurant “a forager’s wet dream,” forever associating our favorite Melrose Market spot with an uncomfortable level of arousal. (Hey, he wasn't wrong.) But his penchant for disruption and playful divisiveness, even when aimed at Seattle's own dining scene, is why we loved when he came to town. He stirred shit up, sure; he never met a hipster joke he didn't like. But mostly, I think, it was a mutual admiration. “There’s an independent spirit in this town," he said that episode, "always has been.”
3: The Unknown Parts of Seattle
Four years after the Layover episode, Bourdain returned to our emerald city for his CNN series, Parts Unknown, and gave us these gems:
"It’s about a place that’s changing—a changing culture, changing industries. A big food town, one of the first American cities outside of New York, Chicago, San Francisco to become proudly and ferociously food-centric. A lot of chefs, a lot great ingredients on that part of the country.
I love Seattle. I’ve had many happy experiences there. From the beginning of my writing career, it’s a town that has welcomed me—probably because it was one of the first cities in America to embrace chefs and new restaurant ideas, to loudly celebrate their local ingredients and local producers. It was a foodie town long before the word foodie existed and will be when that loathsome term is long dead and buried. Demographically speaking, it’s a town that likes talking about food, eating food, reading about food—and, in my case, stories about people who make food.
It’s a strange and beautiful place: gray, rainy, moody, and culturally rich—a place that seems to weed out those who are less than determined to reinvent themselves, break away from the pack, do their own thing however oddball it may be. It’s also yet another American city in transition: changing from company town to music town to tech center, with all the good and bad that comes with that." —Anthony Bourdain, Parts Unknown field notes
This morning, during my regularly scheduled programming of Instagram and Twitter feed scrolling, I learned Anthony Bourdain passed away, or rather, he lost the battle that so many of us both in the culinary realm and in the world at large wrestle with everyday. His ability to connect with people anytime most anywhere wasn't only about knowing how to eat and have a good time, it's a testament that we should always recognize the humanity in each other—especially if we can do so over a drink and good damn meal.
He wasn't a perfect man. But few others could crack open the world like a meaty coconut and show us how to rip its flesh and drink its cloudy water. Let us hope we never forget how.
"This life might eventually just be the end of me, will I still be with you?" —'Strange Religion' by Mark Lanegan Band, from the Parts Unknown outro (below)
Answer: Yes, you most certainly will, Tony.
Please, if you're hurting call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255.