- Anthony Bourdain’s close friends want the world to celebrate his life on his birthday, June 25.
- The celebration will be called ‘Bourdain Day.’
- People can join in by taking photos and videos of themselves eating, drinking, and travelling like Bourdain, and tagging #BourdainDay on social media.
- Business Insider interviewed journalist Nathan Thornburgh, food writer Matt Goulding, and composer Michael Ruffino about how they’re celebrating Bourdain’s life and continuing his legacy.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
When Barcelona-based food writer Matt Goulding was on his honeymoon in Japan, he made a sake-fuelled decision that changed everything.
Inspired by the food he’d tasted in Japan – rice, noodles, fish – he decided to write a book. And he decided to send an email to Anthony Bourdain, who he’d met briefly years earlier at a snail feast in Catalonia.
He didn’t expect an immediate response.
Not only did Bourdain help Goulding publish his book “Rice, Noodle, Fish” in 2015, he also became a partner and editor-at-large at Roads & Kingdoms, the media company co-founded by Goulding and former TIME foreign correspondent Nathan Thornburgh.
Thus began a years-long food-driven adventure au Bourdain around the world.
Goulding recalled when he and Bourdain filmed the 2017 webseries “Return to Catalunya” in Barcelona.
“That allowed me to take Tony to some of my favourite places, including to a place called La Plata, a local institution where we ate fried anchovies with my wife and father-in-law. I still count those days eating and drinking our way around this city as some of the greatest in my life.”
Thornburgh said that “how [Bourdain] was on television is how he was in real life. He was 100% the person who you saw. It almost saves me from having to describe his personality because everybody knew the real Tony, because what you saw was who he was.”
Los Angeles-based musician Michael Ruffino, Bourdain’s longtime friend and composer for “Parts Unknown,” recalled the last meal he shared with Bourdain, during which the chef had introduced him to Goulding and Thornburgh. It was at the Chateau Marmont, the same hotel where Ruffino and Bourdain had first met and bonded over their mutual love of punk music years earlier.
Bourdain had just returned from filming a “Parts Unknown” episode in Hong Kong. He had been trying to connect Ruffino with Goulding and Thornburgh for some time.
Not long after that meal at the Chateau Marmont, Ruffino found himself standing outside next to an informal memorial for Bourdain, where members of the public left flowers, photos, and other tributes. He said that listening to strangers describe his friend was a surreal experience.
“I recall standing there and listening to people explain him to people who didn’t know who he was, and their descriptions of him were fascinating. I don’t think he really knew that he had so much of an impact.”
Ruffino also never thought of Bourdain as “a food guy.” He said, “I always thought of him as a writer. They used “TV host” to describe him. That struck me as strange, because he wasn’t an aspiring TV host. That just happened to be his medium.”
After Bourdain died in 2018, a group of his close friends including Goulding, Thornburgh, and chefs José Andrés and Eric Ripert searched for a way to celebrate Bourdain’s life and impact, and to continue the spirit of his work. They came up with a yearly celebration on Bourdain’s birthday, June 25, called Bourdain Day.
“The loss of Tony isn’t one just felt by his closest friends and colleagues – it’s one that millions of people around the world have felt, because that’s how deeply his life and work impacted us. Bourdain Day is a chance for everyone to participate and celebrate what they cherished most about Tony,” said Goulding. “It’s a celebration of Tony’s life and the impact he had on diverse communities around the world.”
Thornburgh said that Bourdain Day will also reframe the conversation around “all of the gifts that we got from him” by celebrating how he lived rather than how he died.
Bourdain’s friends will be celebrating Bourdain Day in different ways.
Ruffino, who has largely avoided social media after Bourdain’s passing, said that he will pay attention to social media on Bourdain’s birthday. “There hasn’t been a day in the past year that I haven’t thought about him, so I’m sure I’ll be remembering. I will pay attention to social media because it’s interesting, and sometimes even enlightening, to experience what his impact was through other people’s eyes.”
Thornburgh will be celebrating with a Negroni, which is a drink he disliked until he began drinking with Bourdain, who was a Negroni fan. “When you’re drinking with Tony, the phrase ‘I’ll have what he’s having’ just seems to come naturally.”
For Bourdain Day, Goulding plans to do what Bourdain loved most – travel. He will be “hitting a few places in the city I know Tony loved, and a few others that I think he would have if he’d had the chance to experience them.”
As for what they hope others will do for Bourdain Day, Goulding said, “I’ve been telling people to find that place they always wanted to take Tony and go celebrate there. Could be a noodle spot with plastic stools, a dive bar with foul-mouthed bartenders, or a mum-and-pop diner with a killer apple pie.”
Goulding and Thornburgh invite Bourdain’s fans to film a short video or take photos and share them on social media with the hashtag #BourdainDay. Roads & Kingdoms will keep a rolling collection of #BourdainDay posts starting early in the day on June 25 at roadsandkingdoms.com/bourdainday.
Bourdain’s alma mater, the Culinary Institute of America, has also established a scholarship in his name.
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