2014 was not an easy year for me.
My work had been sold offshore to call centres in the Philippines, despite assurances they wouldn't. Where it would have been easy to make me redundant and pay me out, or help me secure an offline role that didn't involve phone work, my managers had spent the best part of a year gaslighting and bullying me, and my depression and anxiety was at an all-time high.
But one thing that managed to keep me afloat was Anthony Bourdain. Specifically, his TV show - Parts Unknown - which I'd discovered during that year.
Parts Unknown title card.
"Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. 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.”
We were friends, he and I. Not in the traditional sense insofar that we had never actually met one another, nor even corresponded, but every week he was in my house, on my TV, keeping me from spiralling.
There was something about him that relaxed me. Soothed the black dog inside and helped me remain at ease with the world. His voice was calm and smooth, his words were wise, and the message he communicated made me feel like, just for a moment, everything was okay.
"You learn a lot about someone when you share a meal together."
For those unaware, Anthony was a celebrity chef. Not in the way that most were, howeever. He had a dry, ascerbic wit. He spoke freely about his problems with alcohol and drugs. And his journeys weren't to Michelin star restaurants in Paris and London; they were to hole-in-the-wall dives in places you would never consider going - Syria, Cuba, Iran, Myanmar, Colombia, Libya - to name but a few.
He also went to many less dangerous places, but always - always spoke about the people and their struggles, and the food that sustained them. He showed us graffiti and noodle stands and working-class people living their lives in a manner that was respectful and admiring.
"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."
Everywhere he went, he spoke about the rich culture and the food that the locals ate, not the fancy restaurants. He visited and ate at places he was warned to not go, at places where he couldn't identify the food, and even invited himself into people's homes to sample their cooking.
It sounds so odd to be writing this down. How can a chef, of all people, help me with my depression? It's impossible to explain - believe me, I've tried. But invite Anthony into your home, and you might understand. He makes you feel like there is good in the world, even in the worst of places. He makes you see what is special about the world. He taught me that as long as you could appreciate the beauty in life, you would be okay.
Anthony Bourdain eats dinner with Barack Obama in a hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Hanoi
I don’t have to agree with you to like you or respect you.
Yesterday, he was found dead by apparent suicide in his hotel room. The man who helped keep me afloat in my darkest hours succumbed to the very thing he kept me from doing, and it's shattered me to my core.
He seemed too cynical, too strong to fall to something like this, but it just goes to show that no one is immune to the black dog.
Rest in peace, Tony, and thank you for helping to save me.
Please be sure to check out his many excellet television programs:
"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."
If you feel like things are too hard for you, please reach out to someone in your home country. A full list of help lines in many countries are available here