I don’t understand how a person who could inspire so many people, who possessed the single-handed ability to stir up so much passion among the masses, a person who inspired an entire generation of cooks, chefs, and hospitality industry personnel, could hate themselves to such an extreme extent that they end it by self-strangulation. This contradiction is so unfair that it sucks the wind out of my sails, leaving a feeling of discontent stillness, a feeling of what the fuck? How could he not feel the joy that he gave to so. many. people?
I am not alone in not being able to understand this dichotomy. True, he was not a pinnacle of stability: he was a bad boy, went against conventionally constructed rules, he unapologetically bulldozed his own path, but nobody thought his mild on-camera destruction was indicative of a very deep level of self-destruction.
In his narrative, the underdog is always the hero. In his narrative, the humblest of foods are the most complex. Food is life, and no one explained and demonstrated that better. He did not laud the best chefs in the best restaurants, he did the exact opposite. He went into the streets, into people’s homes, he interviewed the outcasts of the culinary world. He opened up a new social consciousness by exposing culture, both socially and politically, through a bowl of food.
His other impact, one that I personally encountered, was his strong influence on this generation of chefs and cooks. Every single person that I know, every colleague, has been greatly inspired by his books and were continually impressed by how he rose above kitchen stardom to make food meaningful on a large scale. Everyone wants to be him and he remains a role model for an entire industry. His original viewpoint on what makes food great, his eloquence with words, his ability to take the industry and completely change it with a simple book is what makes his career so impressive. His passion reached into our hearts and ripped them open with a sheer love of what food represents and what it gives.
I, like everyone else that I know, am weirdly affected by his passing. Yes, I did meet him once, and yes I read his books. And yes, they definitely helped prepare me for the restaurant world: I do not think I could have thrived in the professional kitchen without his tips. His premature exit of this world has left a large void forcing us all to realize just how much his work has affected us.
I want the focus of his legacy to be his belief that food should not be taken too seriously. Food is a reflection of a larger thing. It is an experience. It is tangible love that you share with people that you care for. Truly, food is not about the newest restaurant with the trendiest flavors. It is not about your dishes in magazines and likes on Instagram. At its core, food is a reflection of people, it is a way of life, it is an artistic expression of a person’s surroundings.
Anthony, you affected more people than you could ever imagine on a deeper level than you ever intended. I am sorry that we did not tell you this in a way that could make you happy. Food sustains life, it should not lead to destruction. You of all people know this the best. The tragedy of this story is hard for me to swallow.