Right now, I am imagining what it was like for Anthony Bourdain to sit at his desk and stare at the cursor on his computer screen, before his busy day in the restaurant, when he wrote his first book "kitchen confidential". His solace was to expose the twisted things that happen behind the closed doors of the kitchen. He was looking for an escape too. The world that he lived in was also a world that he did not feel a part of. He told us stories of what happened during the grueling work days under the fluorescent lights and the little joys within. He taught us about the illusory theater of the restaurant and exposed the little magic tricks; today's fish special is yesterday's old fish. In all his travels throughout the many different kitchens of the world he connected us all.
Tony invited us to look behind the curtain, to expose the oppression and hopefully find some humor in it. I am grateful for that. I am also grateful for the brave women who came forward recently, and continue to speak up about the sexual injustices and faulty power structures that exist in the food industry. It inspires me to point out yet another issue behind the plate in systemic oppression. For me, Tony's untimely death is a call to put the whole culture of food under the microscope.
I would like to talk about one thing that I have noticed, something that I have been oppressed by and through my own weakness have oppressed others with. And that is, the myth that vocation of a chef is to be a person who can swallow stress and meet all the demands forced upon them. I reject the idea that the qualities of a good cook resemble that of a soldier. A soldier who sacrifices their own well being. Who must meet the demand of whatever is forced upon them no matter what is at stake. As if they were not worthy of a balanced life. That relationships should suffer, yours and those of your people who work with you to put a meal on the table.
What do these unfair demands say about HOW we eat? What do we consider a good meal? What are the ingredients of that meal? Are those ingredients nourishing my mind and body at the expense of someone else's?
These are the questions that Tony's death inspires. Even though he was not the chef of a restaurant or in a kitchen, he still represented that life and it's demands, which have deep implications on our relationship to food and the people cooking it.