"In a perfect world Juan Mari Arzak would adopt me": the irreverent posthumous guide of Anthony Bourdain
Chef Anthony Bourdain.GASTRO PLANET

Vitriolic chef and communicator Anthony Bourdain lives on in his books. In June 2018, at the age of 61, his death caused a great commotion in the gastronomic world.

Three years after his disappearance, an irreverent travel guide is launched in Spanish, Eat, travel, discover, edited by Planeta Gastro. Under the English title World Travel. An Irreverent Guide, came out in the United States in the middle of a pandemic, last year, and it was made possible by the will of Laurie Woolever. The chef’s right-hand man in his television adventures, whom he called “my lieutenant,” used material he had collected with Bourdain on his trips and collected opinions from friends and colleagues who had gastronomic moments with the media chef.

Illustration of Bourdain from the book 'Eat, Travel, Discover', made by Wesley Allsbrook.
Illustration of Bourdain from the book ‘Eat, Travel, Discover’, made by Wesley Allsbrook.GASTRO PLANET

The book does not contain photos, but does contain illustrations by Wesley Allsbrook, in the style of nineteenth-century fieldwork. It crosses 43 countries, a whole marathon of sensations and discoveries, with the irony and the usual hooligan tone of the writer and cook. “I am a storyteller. I go to places and I come back from them. And I’ll tell you what they made me feel, “said Bourdain, whose Instagram account is still active with the last photo of a filling breakfast in France. From his native New York to his admired Kyoto. From Argentina to Australia, Bourdain’s nose guides us through the tastiest. “Perhaps, after all, there is room in this world for another travel guide, one replete with Tony’s acid wit, his insightful observations, some of the oblique revelations he made about the mysterious outlines of his beaten heart” Allsbrook confesses in the book’s introduction.

In this world tour of your posthumous guide is Spain, one of the last countries in which he made a stop. “How can a ham be so good? How can something in a can be so fantastic? The most basic things … An anchovy, an olive, a piece of cheese. The really simple things, the little things that you see here every day, that’s the good thing about Spain ”, Bourdain writes in his notes. And he exemplifies his preferences in two of his favorite destinations, where he had good friends and colleagues: San Sebastián and Catalonia. The brothers Ferran and Albert Adrià made him his cicerones and with Juan Mari and Elena Arzak he had a special relationship.

Anthony Bourdain with Elena and Juan Mari Arzak at the family restaurant in 2016.
Anthony Bourdain with Elena and Juan Mari Arzak at the family restaurant in 2016.COURTESY OF THE ARZAK FAMILY

“In a perfect world, in another life, I would live in San Sebastián. All this, all this food, this place, would be a natural right, and somehow Elena Arzak would be my sister, and Juan Mari Arzak would adopt me. I love this man, I adore Elena ”, confesses Bourdain. During a recording of Parts Unknown, his last gastronomic series for CNN, he told the Basque chef’s daughter: “My father died very young. But I would like Juan Mari to know that since the first time I came here, I feel that he has taken care of me as a father would. He has been a faithful friend, he has always supported me and I want him to know that I appreciate him. ” His own fatherhood experience was lived by Bourdain at age 50, with the birth of his daughter Ariane (now a 14-year-old teenager), the result of his relationship with the restaurant manager and martial arts expert Ottavia Busia.

Under his tough guise, Anthony Bourdain (New York, June 25, 1956) was a sensitive guy. He was a tireless seeker of sensations. Your programs (No Reservations, Parts Unknown) were a window open to the culinary cultures of the world, their four decades of work constitute an appetizing legacy of gastronomic knowledge and, as in their books (Confessions of a chef, Bad drinks, Raw, the manga Get Jiro…), The wild side of the kitchen always appeared. Both professionally and personally, he was a born dissatisfied.

Cover of the posthumous book by Anthony Bourdain 'Eat, travel, discover', edited by Planeta Gastro.
Cover of the posthumous book by Anthony Bourdain ‘Eat, travel, discover’, edited by Planeta Gastro.

Causes of his tragic end at the age of 61, in the middle of filming in France of his docuserie Parts Unknown? Apparently, depression and exhaustion, in addition to a complicated open relationship with actress Asia Argento, a roller coaster of mutual infidelities and encounters and disagreements.

That hectic life of Bourdain on the wild side is evident in a documentary that has been presented precisely these days at the Tribeca Film Festival and that will be broadcast by CNN and HBO Max. Roadrunner, directed by Morgan Neville (Oscar winner for the documentary about the choristers of music stars 20 steps from fame), shows footage of the chef on his shows and extra shots of the recordings, as well as interviews with family and friends (except for Argento). “I would like to live like a normal person, but I really don’t know what that is,” says Anthony Bourdain on screen. And the images pick up something he said that sounds terribly real: “There is never a happy ending.”

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