Omelets and Popemobiles: 25 Anthony Bourdain Quotes on Food and Travel

You may have guessed by now who’s my all-time number one inspiration.

My fantasy dinner party guest of honor, the late Anthony Bourdain is the influence behind Around the World in 80 Flavors. I never thought the death of a famous chef or a TV show host could have affected me this much. I wept for days.

Because Tony Bourdain was so much more than a TV persona. He was the father to all of us travelers who believe that to learn about a new destination you should head to the nearest noodle shop instead of the museum. He taught us to embrace humanity everywhere from fish markets to hole-in-the-wall taquerias. He was the wanderlusting, infectiously passionate, warm, sharp-witted bridge between cultures and cuisines. A role that is needed today more than ever and is yet to be filled.

Tony’s astonishing constant stream of words of wisdom has infected the nation, and the world.

As Wil Fulton said at Thrillist, “He was a warrior. A champion of the undervalued and overserved. He was on our side. He was Sal Paradise with a point. Rick Steves with a mission. Martha Stewart with a pint glass (or two). He was real. He was raw. He was fearless.”

Picking “top” quotes was mission almost impossible. Let’s be real, everything Bourdain ever said was a bloody quote. Tony’s astonishing constant stream of words of wisdom has infected the nation, and the world. He quite likely made many of us better people. Anyhow, let’s reflect on his legacy with these inspirational teachings:

  1. If I’m an advocate for anything, it’s to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. Walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food. It’s a plus for everybody.
  2. Food is everything we are. It’s an extension of nationalist feeling, ethnic feeling, your personal history, your province, your region, your tribe, your grandma. It’s inseparable from those from the get-go.
  3. Food may not be the answer to world peace, but it’s a start.
  4. Do we really want to travel in hermetically sealed popemobiles through the rural provinces of France, Mexico and the Far East, eating only in Hard Rock Cafes and McDonald’s? Or do we want to eat without fear, tearing into the local stew, the humble taqueria, the sincerely offered gift of a lightly grilled fish head?
  5. You learn a lot about someone when you share a meal together.
  6. The Italians and Spanish, the Chinese and Vietnamese see food as part of a larger, more essential and pleasurable part of daily life. Not as an experience to be collected or bragged about but as something else that gives pleasure, like sex or music, or a good nap in the afternoon.
  7. Skills can be taught. Character you either have or you don’t have.
  8. No one understands and appreciates the American Dream of hard work leading to material rewards better than a non-American.
  9. Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life—and travel—leaves marks on you.
  10. The way you make an omelet reveals your character.
  11. People are generally proud of their food. A willingness to eat and drink with people without fear and prejudice… they open up to you in ways that somebody visiting who is driven by a story may not get.
  12. I don’t have to agree with you to like you or respect you.
  13. If you’re twenty-two, physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel – as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how other people live and eat and cook. Learn from them – wherever you go.
  14. Sometimes the greatest meals on vacations are the ones you find when Plan A falls through.
  15. Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.
  16. An ounce of sauce covers a multitude of sins.
  17. Meals make the society, hold the fabric together in lots of ways that were charming and interesting and intoxicating to me. The perfect meal, or the best meals, occur in a context that frequently has very little to do with the food itself.
  18. It’s very rarely a good career move to have a conscience.
  19. Basic cooking skills are a virtue… the ability to feed yourself and a few others with proficiency should be taught to every young man and woman as a fundamental skill. [It’s] as vital to growing up as learning to wipe one’s own ass, cross the street by oneself, or be trusted with money.
  20. Bad food is made without pride, by cooks who have no pride, and no love. Bad food is made by chefs who are indifferent, or who are trying to be everything to everybody, who are trying to please everyone… Bad food is fake food… food that shows fear and lack of confidence in people’s ability to discern or to make decisions about their lives.
  21. Our movements through time and space seem somehow trivial compared to a heap of boiled meat in broth, the smell of saffron, garlic, fishbones and Pernod.
  22. I’ve long believed that good food, good eating, is all about risk. Whether we’re talking about unpasteurized Stilton, raw oysters or working for organized crime ‘associates,’ food, for me, has always been an adventure.
  23. 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.
  24. Context and memory play powerful roles in all the truly great meals in one’s life.
  25. It’s been an adventure. We took some casualties over the years. Things got broken. Things got lost. But I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

Rest in Power Chef.

Leave a comment