Remembering Anthony Bourdain

This morning, I woke up to the news of Anthony Bourdain's suicide with disbelief. How is it that we've lost two incredibly influential figures in under a week?

Today, we lost a cultural ambassador.

He was more than a celebrity chef or a TV personality. Bourdain helped his viewers, and the world, realize the importance of a meal. In 2000, his book "Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly" explored and exposed the dynamics of a kitchen like no other. He stated, "In America, the professional kitchen is the last refuge of the misfit. It's a place for people with bad pasts to find a new family." By teaching us the grueling nature of the culinary industry, he helped us to think more mindfully about where our food comes from, and who cooks it for us, and why. 

With his work abroad, he forged connections with people across the globe through a common language: food. I wrote a paper about the role food plays in developing globalization during my Freshman year at USC, and I'm not ashamed to say that I watched countless episodes of Parts Unknown in my research. Through his work, Bourdain demystified foreign cuisine, eating delicacies like fish heads that might seem alien to some but came from the hearts of the people he met. Rather than approaching them with scrutiny or condescension, Bourdain treated the cultures and the people he visited with utmost respect -- the key to an equal cultural exchange.

But he did more than just graciously accept -- and enjoy -- what he was offered. He was, to sum it up, a culinary ambassador. In Parts Unknown, he brought people together, helping us form a global mindset by watching his immersive cultural education. His respect for those he visited enabled us to empathize and understand the cultural significance behind our food. Exchanging food is an easy way to foster relationships between cultures, and by engaging with members of the communities he traveled to, sitting down with them and learning their stories, Bourdain was a diplomat of sorts. He used his celebrity platform to discuss immigration, cultural divides and local history, examining politics through the lens of food and a bad-boy personality. As a prominent voice in the #MeToo movement with girlfriend Asia Argento, he worked beyond the region of food and became a distinguished public figure.

Bourdain, thank you for giving us your wise words, fresh perspectives, and love for food. You will be missed.

With these two losses, we must realize that mental illness is not something to be taken lightly. We tend to brush off depression and tell people to "lighten up," not realizing that it is a serious disease to be treated like any other injury. 

If you or a friend are struggling with depression, I will reiterate: do not hesitate to reach out to a loved one. There are people who will listen, people who care about you and are willing to help. Your life is worth much more than you may realize.

[If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for a list of additional resources. Here’s what you can do when a loved one is severely depressed.]