Anthony Bourdain was one of the most outspoken chefs in the culinary world. He was unfiltered, brash, and charismatic. He wasn't just a food obsessive, but also a perpetually curious cook who wanted to know the traditions and history of the food he was eating. His natural curiosity toward international cuisines led Bourdain down an unexpected path to transform from chef to the world's favorite travel host.
Bourdain had four food and travel shows throughout his life. He was known to show up in a country that many Americans deemed "scary" and show a different side of where he was visiting without diminishing what made that place unique. He also wrote 14 books—some fiction, some non-fiction—in his lifetime.
Even though Bourdain sadly passed away in 2018, we will always have his quotes about food and life to push us forward and remind us of the importance of food, travel, and acceptance.
Here are 51 of Bourdain's best quotes and life lessons about food, travel, and life we won't ever forget.
- "In America, the professional kitchen is the last refuge of the misfit. It's a place for people with bad pasts to find a new family."
- "Anyone who's a chef, who loves food, ultimately knows that all that matters is: 'Is it good? Does it give pleasure?'"
- "What nicer thing can you do for somebody than make them breakfast?"
- "Context and memory play powerful roles in all the truly great meals in one's life."
- "I, personally, think there is a real danger of taking food too seriously. Food should be part of the bigger picture."
- "People are generally proud of their food. A willingness to eat and drink with people without fear and prejudice… they open up to you in ways that somebody visiting who is driven by a story may not get."
- "Sometimes the greatest meals on vacations are the ones you find when Plan A falls through."
- "Our movements through time and space seem somehow trivial compared to a heap of boiled meat in broth, the smell of saffron, garlic, fishbones, and Pernod."
- "For me, the cooking life has been a long love affair, with moments both sublime and ridiculous. But like a love affair, looking back you remember the happy times best."
- "Good food and good eating are about risk. Every once in a while an oyster, for instance, will make you sick to your stomach. Does this mean you should stop eating oysters? No way."
- "I like food where the guiding principle is you have three or four good ingredients, and the most important thing is to just not screw them up. Treat them with a little respect."
- "Food may not be the answer to world peace, but it's a start."
- "I think food, culture, people and landscape are all absolutely inseparable."
- "I've long believed that good food, good eating, is all about risk. Whether we're talking about unpasteurized Stilton, raw oysters or working for organized crime 'associates,' food, for me, has always been an adventure"
- Good food is very often, even most often, simple food."
- "You have to be a romantic to invest yourself, your money, and your time in cheese."
- "Garlic is divine. Few food items can taste so many distinct ways, handled correctly. Misuse of garlic is a crime…Please, treat your garlic with respect…Avoid at all costs that vile spew you see rotting in oil in screwtop jars. Too lazy to peel fresh? You don't deserve to eat garlic."
- "The way you make an omelet reveals your character."
- "An ounce of sauce covers a multitude of sins."
- "For a moment, or a second, the pinched expressions of the cynical, world-weary, throat-cutting, miserable bastards we've all had to become disappears, when we're confronted with something as simple as a plate of food."
- "Food is everything we are. It's an extension of nationalist feeling, ethnic feeling, your personal history, your province, your region, your tribe, your grandma. It's inseparable from those from the get-go."
- "Whatever had the most shock value became my meal of choice."
- "You learn a lot about someone when you share a meal together."
- "Cooking is a craft, I like to think, and a good cook is a craftsman—not an artist. There's nothing wrong with that: The great cathedrals of Europe were built by craftsmen—though not designed by them. Practicing your craft in expert fashion is noble, honorable, and satisfying."
- "I think people lose sight of the fact that chefs should be ultimately in the pleasure business, not in the look-at-me business."
- "To live life without veal or chicken stock, fish cheeks, sausages, cheese, or organ meats is treasonous."
- "Bad food is made without pride, by cooks who have no pride, and no love. Bad food is made by chefs who are indifferent, or who are trying to be everything to everybody, who are trying to please everyone… Bad food is fake food… food that shows fear and lack of confidence in people's ability to discern or to make decisions about their lives."
- "Meals make the society, hold the fabric together in lots of ways that were charming and interesting and intoxicating to me. The perfect meal, or the best meals, occur in a context that frequently has very little to do with the food itself."
- "If I'm an advocate for anything, it's to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. Walk in someone else's shoes or at least eat their food. It's a plus for everybody."
- "Travel is about the gorgeous feeling of teetering in the unknown."
- "The journey is part of the experience — an expression of the seriousness of one's intent. One doesn't take the A train to Mecca."
- "I'm a big believer in winging it. I'm a big believer that you're never going to find a perfect city travel experience or the perfect meal without a constant willingness to experience a bad one. Letting the happy accident happen is what a lot of vacation itineraries miss, I think, and I'm always trying to push people to allow those things to happen rather than stick to some rigid itinerary."
- "Looking at these photographs, I know that I will never understand the world I live in or fully know the places I've been. I've learned for sure only what I don't know—and how much I have to learn."
- "To be treated well in places where you don't expect to be treated well, to find things in common with people you thought previously you had very, very little in common with, that can't be a bad thing."
- "If you're twenty-two, physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel—as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how other people live and eat and cook. Learn from them—wherever you go."
- "Travel isn't always pretty. It isn't always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that's OK. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind."
- "I know what I want. I want it all. I want to try everything once."
- "Luck is not a business model."
- "Skills can be taught. Character you either have or you don't have."
- "Once you embark on a career dictated by the need for immediate cash flow, it never gets any easier to get off the treadmill."
- "I had always believed that if somebody who worked with me went home feeling like a jerk for giving their time and their genuine effort, then it was me who had failed them—and in a very personal, fundamental way."
- "I don't have to agree with you to like you or respect you."
- "I'm not afraid to look like an idiot."
- "Assume the worst. About everybody. But don't let this poisoned outlook affect your job performance. Let it all roll off your back. Ignore it. Be amused by what you see and suspect."
- "Without experimentation, a willingness to ask questions and try new things, we shall surely become static, repetitive, and moribund."
- "I learned a long time ago that trying to micromanage the perfect vacation is always a disaster. That leads to terrible times."
- "Without new ideas, success can become stale."
- "Don't lie about it. You made a mistake. Admit it and move on. Just don't do it again. Ever."
- "It's been an adventure. We took some casualties over the years. Things got broken. Things got lost. But I wouldn't have missed it for the world."
- "Perhaps wisdom, at least for me, means realizing how small I am, and unwise, and how far I have yet to go."
- "As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life—and travel—leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks—on your body or on your heart—are beautiful."