A sane voice in an insane world fell silent last Friday. Anthony Bourdain — chef, traveler, unofficial diplomat — died in France. For many of us, this is a devastating loss that’ll take a while scab over. And it will never heal completely.
But, Bourdain didn’t leave us alone. He left us with a massive catalog of ideas, words, recipes, images, and episodes. His oeuvre, if you will, is immense. It’s not enough, of course — we wish we had many years more of his passionate, funny, influential voice. But we are grateful for what he left behind, for the moments that took us to the incredible places and food that are often overlooked. So let’s take a moment to celebrate the man and his work — a work that aimed to connect us, inform us, and, most importantly, highlight the beauty of this planet and the sameness of all us living on it.
Below are 12 episodes (plus a bonus pull) of Anthony Bourdain’s TV shows that moved the meter, defined his personality, and truly changed the travel and food game on TV. Of course, picking only 12 is tough. We did our best to be comprehensive. Still, there are episodes we had to cut that we didn’t want to and, surely, there are episodes not on this list that spoke to you. So, please, feel free to tell us about your favorite episodes in the comments.
No Reservations (Why the French Don’t Suck)
This isn’t where it all started. That was a little show called A Cook’s Tour. But this is where Bourdain launched his mothership show. He’d moved from the Food Network to the Travel Channel. In that move, he’d gotten more creative control and he started making his show, not the network’s show. This is where his signature style — of using food to truly experience the people and culture of a place — started to shine.
The first salvo was an episode about France and why we really need to rethink everything we know about it. Today — in the world of instant connectivity — that may seem silly. But back in 2005, we were living in a world of “freedom fries” and intense Francophobia due to France’s refusal to support us in the Iraq War. Bourdain was having none of it and devoted his first episode to highlight the beauty that is Paris. It was with this move and Bourdain’s insistence on breaking down ugly stereotypes that’d inform the rest of his career from Mexico to Palestine and beyond — that make this a great place to start any Bourdain journey.