Whenever a celebrity dies, a wave of emotional reactions take over social media of people talking about what a person they probably never met meant to them.
But Anthony Bourdain wasn’t an idol to be put on a pedestal — he was in the trenches of humanity every single day, sharing the joy he found in the world through food. With every episode of No Reservations and Parts Unknown, every interview, column and social media post, the chef worked to make the world a more curious, inclusive and compassionate place.
And it wasn’t just on camera that he was a global ambassador for decency and kindness. Ever since his death by suicide at age 61 broke earlier today, people have been flooding social media with stories of how he changed their lives, from a waitress struggling with sexual harassment to a boy with leukemia making foodie travel plans for when he recovers.
Here are just a few of the personal accounts of people whose lives were changed and who knew that Bourdain’s compassion extended far beyond the screen.
I was at one of those dumb parties where everyone you talk to is scanning the room for someone more famous to talk to. Awful. I stepped outside to find a lil corner to hide in and Anthony Bourdain was already in the corner. I said “I came here to hide” he said...— Ashley Nicole Black (@ashleyn1cole) June 8, 2018
“Ok, I won’t talk to you” and we sat quietly together for a few minutes. Then someone came over to gush at him and he politely left. That’s the only time I ever met him, but there’s nothing I appreciate more than someone you can sit quietly with.— Ashley Nicole Black (@ashleyn1cole) June 8, 2018
I met Anthony Bourdain only once, while waiting in line at a food festival. Instead of hello he said "hey kid, you hungry?" and it was like I'd bumped into an old friend.— shivana (to scale) (@toastasaurus) June 8, 2018
He spent the ten minutes listening to me talk about the home country of my parents, Trinidad & Tobago, with the utmost engagement. Like an ambassador studying up, ready to go.— shivana (to scale) (@toastasaurus) June 8, 2018
I wanted him so badly to visit there. I felt I could trust him to see what I saw in Trinidad, as if the heart of the country would be safe in his hands as a person and traveler. You trusted him with Your Heritage.— shivana (to scale) (@toastasaurus) June 8, 2018
A thread about how wonderful Anthony Bourdain was and how blessed my friend and I were to be rescued by him one night in Kentucky.— Yes, I'm A Fire Sign (@KateAllDay) June 8, 2018
I ate with Bourdain. Probably 2004. He was big even then but he took time to sit with me in Chinatown to talk “weird” food for a magazine piece I was writing. He taught me that our “weird” is the world’s delicious. We ate chicken feet. The afternoon vibrated with life. RIP— John Hodgman (@hodgman) June 8, 2018
In 2010, I covered a @Bourdain book-tour stop at #stl’s @TheFoxTheatre where a boy with leukemia asked his culinary idol where he should go eat - anywhere in the world - once he’s in remission. Bourdain didn’t hesitate: Spain. But then...1/3— Evan Benn (@EvanBenn) June 8, 2018
...after @Bourdain left town and our story about the tour appearance ran, his assistant reached out to me, privately. Bourdain wanted to help send this kid to Spain and make it the time of his life. 2/3— Evan Benn (@EvanBenn) June 8, 2018
So, with the help of @MakeAWish, Evan Piña-White went to Spain. We wrote about that - https://t.co/a0Ky7JCfA3 - but the story doesn’t mention Bourdain’s involvement (per his wishes). He set the kid up at the best restaurants & helped make the trip incredible. He was special. 3/3— Evan Benn (@EvanBenn) June 8, 2018
I worked in restaurants for 7 years in college and when I was a struggling freelance writer. Anthony Bourdain once saw a busboy sexually harass me and he told my manager. I was vocal about the issue for weeks, and it wasn’t until he said something that they took it seriously.— Vera Papisova (@VeraPapisova) June 8, 2018
1. My heart is broken. Anthony Bourdain was so good to me and a big reason I'm still doing what I'm doing. In January I fell into a deep depression for the first time in my life. Having never dealt with it in the past, I was unprepared. Tony helped me save myself 1 text at a time— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) June 8, 2018
6. One night in early February he was signaling me with restaurant suggestions and I told him I was dealing with depression for the first time and wanted to give up on work. "Maybe I'm not meant to do this," I said. What he said next I'm going to keep private but for the past— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) June 8, 2018
7. few months he has made me feel like a million bucks. He made me feel like I had an obligation to keep going..and when I shared some career news with him while I was still grappling with depression he was happier for me than I was for myself.— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) June 8, 2018