‘A Beautiful Contagion’: Anthony Bourdain

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At GQ, family, friends, and co-workers share their memories of chef and television host Anthony Bourdain, who died in June, 2018.

David Remnick (editor in chief, ‘The New Yorker’): My wife came home one day, and she said, “Look. There’s a really nice woman at the newspaper. Her son is a writer. She wanted you to take a look at his work,” which seemed…adorable, right? A mother’s ambition for a son. I took this manuscript out of its yellow envelope, not expecting much. I started to read. It was about a young cook, working at a pretty average steak-and-frites place on lower Park Avenue. I called this guy up on the phone. He answered it in his kitchen. I said, “I’d like to publish this work of yours in The New Yorker. I hope that’s okay.” That was the beginning of Anthony Bourdain being published. I don’t know if there’s any way to put this other than to say he invented himself as a writer, as a public personality. It was all there.

Josh Homme (frontman, Queens of the Stone Age; composed the theme song for ‘Parts Unknown’): He was such a beautiful contagion. He presented such a fascinating doorway to so many other things that aren’t within your narrow doorway of what you do. When it was time to write the song for his show, he sent over [Joey Ramone] doing “What a Wonderful World.” And I said to him, “Are you sure you want me to do this?” And he just said, “It is a wonderful world. Isn’t it?”

Michael Ruhlman (author): There was this woman who was a foodie, but she was a student and she was poor. And she used to go by his restaurant every day. She’d just stand out there, looking in and smelling the smells and thinking about it. One day Tony came out and said, “Hey, I see you here all the time.” She said, “Yeah, I can’t afford to eat here.” He said, “Come in. I’m gonna feed you.” And so he fed her a steak and a proper béarnaise sauce while she sat amongst the crowd.

Hamilton: That’s the thing about friendship with Tony. Tony lavishes you with love and friendship and generosity and kindness, and then he disappears in the night and you don’t get to reciprocate. It wasn’t mutual. But it was breathtaking to be loved by him.

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