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HIGHLIFE FOR LOWLIFES GUIDE TO COOKING: Honoring Anthony Bourdain

"Things are different now” is a line Anthony Bourdain used often in his books, on his shows and in his columns in various magazines. It is a simple statement that has come to define him in my mind, especially now that we have all lost him. It reflects the impermanent nature of life as a whole and as of last Friday morning with the announcement of his death it defines my feelings toward the world without him in it. That might sound over the top or self-serving to some, after all I had never met the man, he was in fact a total stranger… but he was my stranger.



I did however have the good fortune to see him speak live a number of years ago, I have read his books and articles, I have watch every episode of all his various network shows, I have cooked his recipes. I have spent more time with the man in those ways than I have members of my own family. The impact his work has had on me over the past nearly 20 years is extraordinary. His words have taught me, his shows have guided me and his food has enriched my life. He was inspiration incarnate. It is hard to describe the sheer impact he has had on my life and how I view the world, or on anyone else that ever enjoyed any aspect of his work as I am far from alone in this. He was a prolific figure in so many people’s lives.

To me the single most impressive and enduring legacy to his works is that he above all else wanted to teach people not to be afraid of other people or their cultures. That we all eat, we all come to the table in one way or another and that through the universal common ground that food creates we can start conversation. That we are not as different, separate and divided as it would appear. That was Tony’s mantra, that was his big lesson for all of us and damned if he didn’t do his very best to teach it to us. He can probably be credited with opening more Americans' eyes to other cultures and their foods than anyone else in the past 50 years. His work will be celebrated and revered for a generation to come because of this. The lives he touched and the minds he changed will echo into the future, albeit tragically not a future with him in it.

I related to Anthony Bourdain in a way that I don’t relate to very many people, especially the ones on TV. I, like so many other misfits, related to his outsider persona, his bad boy non-conformist attitude and his general lack of fucks given. He was my kind of guy -- tattooed, short tempered, kind hearted, brutally honest with a razor sharp wit. He wasn’t trying to be anything or anyone he wasn’t. He was authentic and genuine. When you watched him, or read his words you believed him because he was unapologetically honest with his experiences and opinions. Think about how rare that is in life to experience from anyone on any level, let alone a public figure. He wasn’t ever trying to scam you, mislead you or sell you anything (well…most of the time, and even when he was, he was honest about it).

Hearing of his death last week shocked me. Truly and deeply. I still can’t quite believe it. When the reports of his death came out and it was confirmed that it was a suicide, it rang a deep dark bell inside me. My family has a long history of suicide, so the topic is very visceral to me personally. Both my maternal and paternal grandfathers committed suicide, both at very different times in their lives and for very different reasons. My mother’s first husband as well, and it was widely believed that my own father was likely headed down that very same road had he not died in an accident in 2015. So I am intimately familiar with the lasting damage suicide can have on a family and others in a person’s life as well as the frustration and confusion it creates in those left behind. I also, given my own misanthropic tendencies, understand its appeal. I understand to a degree the feelings and reasoning behind making that choice and how for a variety of reasons it can seem the only option. It is easy to say that it is a selfish act, or that “suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem” and while that may all be true, it is also true that you can never really understand another person’s struggle in life. The battle they fight inside their own heart, why they feel the way they do. Sometimes you don’t get an answer and you don’t get to understand.  When it comes to Tony, I don’t think he owed us any answers. He gave the world so much in his lifetime and I think that anyone whose life was enriched by his words owes him a little understanding and the respect not to ask.

Anthony Bourdain was a titan, an Icon, Chef, writer, teacher, and traveler. I am so grateful he was here to take me on so many journeys and lead me to so many discoveries that have shaped my world. He opened my eyes to so much of what the world has to offer and that gift will stay with me the rest of my life because now that my eyes are open they can never be closed again. He was and is my hero and heroes are hard to come by in life, especially one such as him.

Thank you Tony, for everything.

About:

J.Nevadomski is an accomplished musician, artist, art director and gallery curator from Rochester NY. He has recorded with musicians from all over the world for his project “The Fragile Path” and is a veteran artist whose paintings have been featured in galleries, newspapers and exhibitions throughout Western NY. In 2012 he was the “artist guest of honor” at RocCon: Rochester’s Anime, Sci-Fi and comic book convention. He is on the board of directors for Flower City Comic Con (FC3) serving as art director, is the resident curator for the art gallery at Bread & Water Theatre. He lives in the Park Ave area of Rochester, keeps a yearly urban vegetable garden and regularly cooks and hosts dinner parties for friends and colleagues.