'Imagine walking in somebody else's shoes for a few minutes': Anthony Bourdain was an outspoken Trump critic, but made an effort to meet people who voted for him

CNNAnthony Bourdain in West Virginia.
  • Anthony Bourdain was a staunch critic of Donald Trump.
  • Despite that he made an attempt to understand the people who voted for him.
  • Bourdain visited West Virginia in the last year specifically to meet Trump voters.
  • He later described the state as “breathtakingly beautiful” and stereotypes of its residents “cruel, ignorant, misguided, patronizing, and evil.”
  • The American chef died in France on Friday in an apparent suicide.

Anthony Bourdain openly criticised Donald Trump, but made a conscious effort to meet the president’s supporters.

The American chef, who died on Friday, travelled to West Virginia to film an episode for his CNN show recently in a “plea for understanding” of the state, which overwhelmingly voted for Trump in the 2016 presidential election.

In an essay published in April, Bourdain described West Virginia as “breathtakingly beautiful” and called the stereotypes about its residents “as cruel, ignorant, misguided, patronizing, and evil as any other.”

He wrote:

“Like any other episode of Parts Unknown, whether in Vietnam or Nigeria, or any city in the United States, this West Virginia episode is a plea for understanding of the people whose personal histories, sense of pride, independence, and daunting challenges deserve respect. It’s a walk in somebody else’s shoes.

“The stereotypes about West Virginia, it turns out, are just as cruel, ignorant, misguided, patronizing, and evil as any other. […] Their identities, their aspirations, and their situation are far more complex than one can imagine, and their needs are more immediate.”

Anthony bourdain west virginia familyCNNAnthony Bourdain dining with a family in West Virginia.

He added: “I am intensely grateful for the kindness, hospitality, and patience the people of West Virginia showed to this ignorant rube from New York City who arrived with so many of the usual preconceptions, only to have them turned on their head.”

In an interview with Eater in April, Bourdain also said he was “absolutely rocked back on my heels” by the West Virginian scenery and people, and that he hoped that his viewers would also “feel the same kind of empathy and respect.”

He added: “I hope that people who watch the show will feel the same kind of empathy and respect, and will be able to walk in somebody else’s shoes, or imagine walking in somebody else’s shoes, for a few minutes in the same way that hopefully they do with one of my other shows.”

Bourdain’s travels took him around the US and the world, with “Parts Unknown” episodes taking place in cities including Buenos Aires, Tbilisi, Lagos, and Hanoi.

Obama anthony bourdain vietnamWhite HouseBourdain dining with former President Barack Obama in Hanoi in 2016.

Bourdain was an outspoken critic of Trump, having previously described the president as someone who had “not left me with a favourable impression” and compared Trump’s popularity to that of the 1930s Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.

Seven months before the 2016 election, Bourdain told Business Insider’s Richard Feloni: “Mussolini served his country in combat and did a credible job, and I don’t think you could say that about, you know, this guy,” referring to Trump.

Last September, Bourdain also joked that he would poison Trump and Kim Jong Un if they asked him to cater for a meeting. Criticism he received for the joke is what prompted him to take his show to West Virginia.

Trump told reporters on Friday that Bourdain “was quite a character,” and described the chef’s death as “very sad.”

Bourdain was found in his hotel room in apparent case of suicide on Friday morning while filming an episode in France. He was 61.

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or has had thoughts of harming themselves or taking their own life, get help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) provides 24/7, free, confidential support for people in distress, as well as best practices for professionals and resources to aid in prevention and crisis situations.

Remembering Anthony Bourdain:

Anthony Bourdain opened up about his ‘unhappy soul’ in an interview a year before he died

Anthony Bourdain bought a painting with a chilling title days before his death, and the artist is devastated

Chefs are responding to the news of Anthony Bourdain’s death with touching tributes on social media

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