Packer Insight - Anthony Bourdain
( Photo by The Packer staff )

We read his books. We watched him on TV. We felt like we knew him.

That’s what Markon CEO Tim York and I talked about after we heard of Anthony Bourdain’s suicide in early June. York and I met Bourdain together during breakfast at the 2007 PMA Foodservice Expo in Monterey, Calif.

Bourdain was the keynote speaker, and he didn’t disappoint. 

“I remember he said he just quit smoking, and he started taking Chantix,” York said. “He was so fidgity.”

I remember he was funny and engaging. He said cooking with and eating fruits and vegetables was very normal to him. He didn’t promote them. He didn’t have to.

In covering the talk for that week’s Packer, I took down some of his better quotes:

  • “Chefs are finding great vegetables. Now we must find great meat to go with them.”
  • “There should be no knee-jerk reaction against genetically modified produce. There are a lot of hungry people in the world.”
  • “Shallots are the one ingredient that makes restaurant food taste different than home.”
  • “Vegetables are a wonderful thing, especially when cooked in pork fat.”
  • “Vegetarians have contempt for the world. (The lifestyle) is simply bad manners.”

York said Bourdain lived the concept of real food before that became an official trend, and fresh produce fits well into that trend.

York said he thought of Bourdain last year when he traveled to Uganda. 

York said he was invited to someone’s house, and they prepared a local chicken broth dish that his fellow traveling companions declined.

“But the polite thing is to accept the food and be a good guest,” York said. 

So he did, and it was tasty and didn’t even make him sick.

“I felt like that’s what Bourdain would have done.”

Much of Bourdain’s appeal to people is that he was real.

Early in his career, he was publicly critical of celebrity chefs such as Paula Deen and Rachael Ray, saying they were too commercial and inauthentic.

Ironically, that honesty helped propel Bourdain to become one of the most well-known celebrity chefs.

We felt like we knew him, so his suicide was a shock. But he battled demons.

In a 2016 episode of his TV show “Parts Unknown,” Bourdain admitted to battling depression.

“I will find myself in an airport, for instance, and I’ll order an airport hamburger. It’s an insignificant thing, it’s a small thing, it’s a hamburger, but it’s not a good one. Suddenly I look at the hamburger and I find myself in a spiral of depression that can last for days,” he said.

At least we knew him enough to appreciate him.

Greg Johnson is The Packer’s editor. E-mail him at