Imagine Yourself As Anthony Bourdain

I recently stumbled across this CNN story by Steve Hurlbert again. I loved it from the first time i read it. It’s an excellent tale about his chance encounter with Anthony Bourdain in a random bar in NYC. It’s the sort of thing that tons of Parts Unknown fans dream of but don’t believe it happened. The story always makes me happy because I witnessed it many times. You can read it here.

“Tony was present that night with us at the bar, just as we've seen him be with the people he meets along his travels. Whether with the people of the Congo or chefs in Los Angeles' Koreatown, you get the sense that he's paying attention. It's not a routine or schtick, and we got to see that up close and personal.” - Steve Hurlburt


When people would see Tony in a place, the same place that they were, they often professed disbelief. They couldn’t grasp the idea that world famous TV personality, celebrated writer, celebrity chef, cultural ambassador Anthony Bourdain was in the same place that they found themselves in. 

I would usually say something like “Well have you seen the show? It’s about people in places. Real people and real places. Currently it’s this place. The same one that you are in.” Then they were usually surprised that this person, the one that they admired, maybe even idolized, was so much like the personality from his television shows. 

So I would continue with something like “What were you expecting him to be like? It’s not acting. That’s just him, with his thoughts, being himself. But you know, being himself in this place.” 

As they tried to wrap their mind around the reality of Tony, I would challenge them and say “Could you do me a favor? Next time you come into this place, look around the room and realize it is an interesting place, full of interesting people. Really interesting people. Choose one of them. Someone that you don’t know, or maybe someone you don’t know so well. Buy them a drink. Sit with them. Have a conversation. Listen to them. Share your thoughts. Start the conversation anywhere; ask about their drink of choice, or how they came to choose this place. Then steer the conversation towards the things that person really wants to talk about. Imagine yourself as Anthony Bourdain. Put yourself in his shoes. Be curious. Dig deep. Recognize the interaction with a bartender or a waiter as a collaboration. Engage the people around you. Then write me a note and tell me how you feel about your world now. “


My hope is that they will have a deeper appreciation of their own surroundings, life and experiences and at the same time, be able to recognize those things everywhere. That they will start to recognize that this world and the people that inhabit it are interesting. It makes the world seem smaller and more accessible. Maybe they will start to reach out and connect everywhere they go. I hope they are less afraid and less surprised to find that people have a lot in common with them, even Anthony Bourdain. He was a father, a fan of movies and music, an illustrator. He had jobs. He had friends. He had responsibilities and romances. He was smart and insightful. He was sometimes shy or reserved, but he was approachable. He enjoyed having a drink and a conversation. He had more in common with you than you probably could’ve recognized. 

So recognize that now. Go into the world with curiosity. Make some friends. Look at things around you in a new way.