Connecticut chefs, restaurateurs and culinary figures are reacting to the death of Anthony Bourdain, sharing their sorrow, disbelief and gratitude for his influence. The 61-year-old chef, author and TV personality died of an apparent suicide Friday.
“Bourdain was a cook's cook and a chef's chef — and always reminded us as chefs that we were cooks first and foremost. He was a truth-teller in our industry, and as he matured, developed almost a prophetic voice on important issues.
Like many chefs, his books inspired me to be better and do better for our industry.
One of the things I most respect about him is that he modeled that a chef could be more than a chef and have a voice and speak to issues, both within and beyond the restaurant world.
His tragic loss by suicide is also an important reminder that we — as chefs and restaurateurs and leaders — need to do a better job of dealing with both mental illness and addiction within our industry. We need to destigmatize these issues, we need to make it okay and safe to talk about these issues, we need to model good self-care for our staff, we need to create sustainable work schedules — and we need to address these issues head-on and have some hard conversations. We need to learn to ask for help when we need it.
My other hat when I'm not a chef is that of a pastor — and I can tell you this is true across industries. We all need to get better at talking about and addressing mental illness, mental health and addiction issues.
Today, I am going to take this opportunity to talk my staff about these issues — I hope other chefs do the same. And fellow chefs that are struggling — ask for help, reach out — if you can't within your work setting, at least to another chef or a mentor or a counselor or pastor. But definitely reach out.”
“I think he had a huge influence on sort of everyone who grew up in my generation cooking. We were able to see him go from a chef to an author to a celebrity. In the newer days, a lot of cooks just saw him as a major celebrity, more than anything, than sort of this voice of a cook.
I probably read [Bourdain’s 2000 book “Kitchen Confidential”] 50 times. It’s the book I read the most in my life, that’s for sure. We could relate to it, because it was based in tons of truth that cooks see every day. The base of that book was based in all truths, whether or not some of it he embellished a little bit — there’s some stories that are a little wild, even for somebody like me who’s seen some pretty wild things in this business — at its core, at its root, it really communicated what our job is and what we do. There were amazing tidbits of knowledge in that book that I’ve taken to heart.”
Dante Cistulli, managing partner at Max Restaurant Group’s Savoy Pizzeria & Craft Bar in West Hartford:
“It’s like everybody in the world had a story about Bourdain. He was a friend to all, it seems like, and he knew how to resist in the coolest way possible. And he was a badass chef.
As a human being, I found him inspirational enough that I feel affected by it. And everyone in the restaurant does. It’s kind of beautiful, it’s kind of eerie, a very bizarre feeling. But you can tell everybody’s thinking about it. It’s been a long time since I felt something like this, where you can feel it everywhere. You’re going to go out today and every restaurant you go into, there’s going to be a funk in the air. It’s going to be, ‘Anthony Bourdain died today.’ It’s crazy.”