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Anthony Bourdain: Food Safety Hero

Posted in Food Safety on June 21, 2018

On June 8th of this year the world lost what I considered to be a food legend. Before binge watching was even a term I can recall, so many memories of watching Anthony Bourdain on television with my Dad on what was then called just a “marathon” on The Travel Channel.

Later in my older teenage years, I picked up a book from the local library called No Reservations: Around the World on an Empty Stomach and really got to know this person that I had seen on television for some time.

The news of the tragic passing of Anthony Bourdain left me wanting to call my Dad immediately. I knew that he would be just as shocked as I was, but unfortunately, he was at work and heard the news that evening when he arrived at home. Most recently, we had been watching Bourdain on CNN, and he had covered one of my very favorite places in the world: West Virginia. In that episode, he did so many activities that rural America knows about, including squirrel hunting and tasting some local eats at a diner.

This real American man, who was a household name, was apparently suffering quite deeply inside and no one knew about it. The suicide of Anthony Bourdain left a lot of other American people such as myself with a desire to check on their family and friends, to make sure those closest to us were doing okay and to offer a listening ear if it was needed.

The Man, The Legend, The Food Safety Hero

In the days following the death of this legend, I found myself scouring the internet looking for more and more information on Bourdain. I wanted to know more and, in doing this research, I learned that he was a champion of food safety and how often things that we eat may not be treated as safely as they should be.

Anthony Bourdain taught us that brunch could be a food safety nightmare and from him we learned that a lot of fish markets took weekends off, so you may want to avoid fresh fish on Mondays. Without his knowledge of this topic, we could have exposed ourselves to some serious illnesses.

One thing that I always respected about Anthony Bourdain was that he was never afraid to serve up a meal filled with the ugly sides of kitchen life. As a teen, I worked in two kitchens – one was a bakery and the other served lunch and on certain nights also served dinner. I saw things in those times that I thought didn’t exist anywhere else. The shortcuts that were taken and often the food safety rules that were violated were enough to make someone’s stomach turn. But they were still done to save money. Bourdain wasn’t afraid to hurt feelings and expose the things that I saw happen right before my eyes. Quite the contrary, he made the world aware that these violations exist, even in the nicest of restaurant kitchens. His book, Kitchen Confidential, is undoubtedly one of the rawest exposés of the potential horrors of the restaurant industry.

Bourdain on Food Safety While Traveling

We watched Anthony Bourdain travel the world, and I often wondered what his secrets were to not getting sick while traveling. I mean, seriously, who can travel that much and not get some sort of illness? In an article featured on Thrillist we learned that, in 15 years Bourdain, only missed 3 days of work due to stomach problems. What in the world? Did this man have a gut made of steel, or did he just know what he was doing?

The traveling advice that I found to be most interesting was this:

“I’ve long found that the person on our crew most likely to get sick is the one who is sort of wary of street food and local food. They always get sick from eating the breakfast buffet at the hotel. That’s what brings people down. You eat in crowded local joints, and chances are you’re going to be OK.”

Okay, so we avoid the hotel breakfast buffet, this sounds pretty simple. He also was completely against eating on airplanes and also in places who catered to tourists with English translations on their menu. He avoided things like Caesar salad claiming “it’s sitting there waiting for the dumb American to come along and order it.” Pretty blunt, but honestly this is what I want to know when traveling, especially internationally.

Bourdain on Staying Healthy When Eating Out

Want to make sure you avoid eating spoiled beef? Don’t order the steak well done. More advice from the great chef who was well known for telling us how to stay well when eating out. We have also been warned by Bourdain to be very wary of “half price” specials when dining out and to also stay attentive with terms like “all you can eat” as those can pose health risks as well.

On an interesting note, Anthony Bourdain was basically anti-fast food and never consumed Chicken McNuggets according to a WebMD article. But he did confess that KFC’s mac and cheese was his guilty pleasure. Who knew? Facts like this make someone who I had put on a pedestal growing up seem even more relatable.

Anthony Bourdain, who became a dad in 2007, admitted fully that he liked to feed his daughter a healthy menu and said that she could make other eating choices later in life. He even quit smoking for her.

Final Thoughts on Anthony Bourdain

A man who traveled the world from a very young age and spent his summer time in France knew the ins and outs of food. Bourdain was a legend in his own sense and left a feeling of emptiness among many all over the globe. While I still reel with the ideas that there was something so deeply troubling this man. He was a household staple and when looking for television entertainment or even a great read I have to believe that he is now no longer troubled and is at peace from whatever may have been on his mind and in his heart.

If you are struggling please know there is help out there with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and they are only a phone call away– 1-800-273-8255. You are not alone.

Thank you, Anthony for all you have done to entertain us, but even more importantly, keep us safe.

By: Samantha Cooper, Contributing Writer (Non-Lawyer)