Anthony Bourdain killed himself last week after hanging himself from a shower head inside his hotel in France. A lot of speculation as to why a man who had the world by the horns both professionally and financially would do such a thing. Take into account his eleven year old daughter, and the whole world is shaking its collective heads in sadness and perhaps even a little pissedoffness. "Why?" we keep asking ourselves.
In my opinion, Bourdain considered himself a fraud. There's little doubt that he could be a nasty dude towards others, and I spoke about that in a previous essay. Let's face it, all too often that kind of attitude is a defense mechanism. Sort of like the school yard bully who picks on the defenseless kids because secretly he likes dudes. Or something like that. But Bourdain was also a well loved man and I've never heard of anyone referring to him as a bully. He was at best outspoken and at worst, well, let's call it insensitive.
Like I also mentioned previously, I originally knew Bourdain as a writer. Not as a cook. But when his memoir Kitchen Confidential went ballistic on the charts, he became a household name. I think for him, the purpose of the book was never meant to secure his legacy as a master chef. It was instead to prove that he was at his core, a great writer. And like all great writers, he wrote what he knew about. In this case it was food and being a cook. Had he been a lawyer, he would have centered his writings, both fictional and nonfiction, around that.
As time went on, Bourdain would become a TV personality, something I believe he on one hand, hated, but on the other, took great pride in. Unlike the vast majority of TV people, he wrote all his own material for his shows, and he was always working on a book or some sort of literary project behind the scenes. He even started a comic.
As time went on however, the writing side of Bourdain faded and he became the traveling guy you see on the Food Channel or the Travel Channel and finally, CNN.
Could it be that he accepted the TV gigs originally because he couldn't pass up the cash? Could it be he assumed the TV would act as publicity for his writing and not the other way around? Or could it be that he didn't know nearly as much about being a chef as the world thought he did? Maybe after a time, the TV personality beast became so large, he had no choice but to come off as something he wasn't. The traveling, adventuring master chef. The adventuring part is true, but maybe, deep down inside he considered himself a phony and he hated himself for it. Maybe, in the end, he would have been perfectly happy writing his books and articles, traveling the globe, and making just a fraction of the money. He would have been true to himself and perhaps lived a long life, free of the inner turmoil.