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A year after his death, WNYers remember Anthony Bourdain

Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain died more than a year ago. Friends have declared June 25, his birthday, Bourdain Day.

I started to write something about that, then decided I got my say already when I wrote:

"Anthony Bourdain was a lot of things to the millions his life and works influenced.

"He was an ambassador to foreign lands and under-appreciated America, spending so many years with his viewers that he felt almost like family, that uncle who travels for work. He backed authors for a line of books, and wrote his own, starting with the memoir 'Kitchen Confidential,' a culinary publishing phenomenon.

"Between books and television, Bourdain was a lodestar for a million chefs, restaurateurs, and other people who decided that food and its expressions were a driving force in their lives."

Bourdain championed the underdog, among other virtues, so it seemed more fitting to ask some of the other people — both within and outside the Western New York food community — that he inspired to offer remembrance.

Bernadette Ruof

Retired teacher from Amherst

His book made me laugh.

His CNN show “Parts Unknown” made me think, made me see the joy he found in other people and showed me how the simplest and best way to know someone is to share your food with them.

A year after my husband died, I made myself spend Thanksgiving alone. I could not travel to where my children lived, and I did not want to be an intrusion into the lives of my friends.

CNN did a marathon of his shows on Thanksgiving evening. I set a beautiful table, roasted a turkey breast and other traditional sides, opened a bottle of wine and spent the night watching his show.

I loved him. From that night on, he was my family. He was “bad” enough to be interesting and his smile and laughter was warm and affectionate. I mourn his loss, still.


Bob Audette

Retired military from East Aurora

I have read all of his books and, most likely, seen all of his shows. All I can say about this is that when I learned of his passing, it hit me hard, as if I had lost a family member. I had a hard time keeping it together that day.


Roy Bakos

Director of hospitality, Buffalo Distillery

Anthony Bourdain brought respect to our industry from folks outside of it for the first time in my lifetime. Hospitality was no longer that job that I had until something else came along, but was a career that we could all be proud of, warts and all.


Melissa Graeff

Fitness instructor from Grand Island

My husband and I loved watching Bourdain's "No Reservations" on the Travel Channel. His show about the Rust Belt cities, including Buffalo, will always be so special to us as our first child was born on the day it premiered and we watched it as a family for the first time. Never missed an episode. This July 25 will mark my son's 10th birthday and the 10th anniversary of that episode.


Smita Chutke

Indian culinary educator; owner, Dakshin Canteen

For me, he took away fear of trying food from other cultures and also introduced the real local ethnic food.

Bourdain showed us how to enjoy the food with our hands and use our taste buds to enjoy the food in all forms, raw or cooked.

He also broke the barrier where everyone thought that the food was more credible if made in upscale restaurants by chefs with a culinary degree. He treated food made at all levels and places with the same respect and dignity.

The most striking was that he didn’t feel a need to sit in a fancy Michelin star place with (then-)President Obama and instead went to this little eatery in Vietnam. Very inspiring!


Mark Notarpole

Head baker, Elm Street Bakery

I had the honor of meeting and talking to him many, many years ago. He was blunt, honest, truthful, real. Loved how he introduced the “dark side” of working in the industry. Also, how he brought other cuisines to ordinary people. He is sorely missed.


Steve Zalewski

Former restaurant manager from Eagle

I appreciated his seeming transparency about the ribaldry, competitiveness, humor, castes and friendships of the industry. We learned in the manner of his passing that he was, like Robin Williams, letting us look at a mirror, not through the window of his self.


Amy White-Storfer

Project manager from Amherst

His search for true authenticity in an inauthentic world helped me examine my own life and whims. For that I am grateful to him. Losing him, although I never met him, felt very sad. I think the world is far less interesting without him.


Bill Newell

Former business owner from Williamsville

Anthony Bourdain’s travels introduced his audience to some of the world’s best restaurants, but also visited more accessible venues like Schwabl’s, Ulrich’s and the Anchor Bar, here in Buffalo. His inspiration led me to Paris, Lyon, San Sebastian, Barcelona, New York, Chicago, Yountville and Cleveland. (Yes, Cleveland.) Can anyone take his place? So far, the answer seems to be “no.”


Stephen Boyd

Associate editor, Albright-Knox Art Gallery; from Buffalo

I’ve idolized Anthony Bourdain since I read Kitchen Confidential more than 10 years ago. His ability to sit down with anyone, anywhere, and have a genuine conversation about their lives, history, food, and culture is part of what inspired me to travel and live abroad in Namibia and Tanzania.

I’ve seen every episode of “No Reservations” and “Parts Unknown” more times than I can count. He reminded me constantly that the world is a huge and wonderful place, and that we are all in it together, despite our differences.


Dan Almasi

Freelance writer from Buffalo

Without the means to travel and gain a broader worldview, for me, watching Anthony’s several travel series is the next best thing. I’ve never been one to revere celebrities, but Anthony is an exception — perhaps because he felt more like a cool, wise uncle.

As a fan and appreciator of Anthony as a remarkable human, I feel positively influenced by his perspectives and deeply affected by his passing. A large poster hangs on my bedroom wall in his memory.

Buffalo restaurant community to throw Anthony Bourdain birthday party

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