Indian-American chefs, fans remember Anthony Bourdain

There’s been an outpouring of grief since the news of celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain’s death. Social media and news reports have been flooded with eulogies by friends, colleagues, fellow chefs, restaurateurs and fans. Bourdain, 61, who was found dead June 8 in a hotel room in Strasbourg, France, where he had been working on an upcoming episode of his program “Parts Unknown,” CNN said. News reports say he hanged himself using a bathrobe belt.

“Top Chef” host Padma Lakshmi told People that she was “shocked and saddened” to hear her friend and frequent “Top Chef” guest judge had died.

“I’ve known Tony for such a long time,” she told the magazine.“I was just really shocked and saddened because he had been doing really well. Lakshmi has been in Kentucky filming the show’s 16th season. “Obviously his career is better than it’s ever been, he seemed to really be in love with his girlfriend and he had a beautiful young daughter. I’ve been walking around all day with this empty pit in my stomach.”

It was their love of food – as well as their love for their daughters – that deepened their friendship, Lakshmi told People. Bourdain's role as a father to Ariane, 11, showed a totally different side of him, she said. "Tony saw the humanity in every person," she said. "I really got close to him after the birth of my daughter. I may have even been a bit intimidated by him before that. I think he could see what I was dealing with and juggling. And he had a lot of empathy for that."

Vikas Khanna, who looked up to Bourdain, called him his “hero,” Khanna recalled Bourdain’s aversion to vegetarian food and then his deep affinity for it. “I told him until he visits India he wouldn’t know the pleasures of vegetarian cuisine,” Khanna told Indo-American News Service. Khanna told IANS he first met Bourdain while doing a tasting menu with mangoes at his midtown Manhattan restaurant Purnima. Their second meet was at the Rubin Museum where Khanna cooked for Bourdain. Khanna shared with Bourdain that he was researching extensively on Himalayan foods, [the book] “Utsav” and creating” Holy Kitchens” documentaries. Bourdain told him to “keep pushing the limits,’” Khanna recalled. Although Khanna couldn’t join Bourdain in Punjab for CNN’s “Parts Unknown” in India, he said he was happy that he started loving Indian vegetarian food and asked Khanna for recipes which were eventually used on the show.

Nashville-based chef Maneet Chauhan shared on Facebook how Bourdain was an inspiration. “You sir showed the world that chefs are a cool and a bad ass group of professionals….. you sir made ethnic food trendy ….. you sir inspired us to travel and explore … you sir taught us how to connect …. You sir showed us we are all one with conversations over food … doesn’t even cover what I feel … RIP Anthony Bourdain,” she wrote.

But it was not just the Indian-American chefs who came out to remember Bourdain. Fans said it was Bourdain who inspired in them a love for traveling, exploring the unknown and expanding their palates.

Neville Mehra of Washington, D.C., in a message posted on CNN.com says: “Before I was able to see so many places and people around the world with my own eyes, I saw them through his. I think I watched every episode of ‘A Cook’s Tour’ and ‘No Reservations’ — following along as Tony explored the world through the lens of food. I could never get enough. Eventually that following along became following in his footsteps. I set off to explore the world — to see, smell, and taste it all first hand. What started as six months around Asia has now been nearly six years of travel,” Mehra wrote.

Although he hardly ever gets to watch Bourdain’s shows, “I still love them, but I don’t need to watch Tony. I internalized him a long time ago,” he said. “A voice in my head that encourages me to get out of my comfort zone, go a little further off the beaten path, and to try something new and different. I think of Tony like a friend. I thought that we might meet one day, maybe even work on something together. I suppose that was his charm. His ability to make you feel like an old friend, sitting there at the table with him, even when you were thousands of miles apart. Judging by all the reactions I see in the wake of his death, I guess I must not be the only one who felt that sense of closeness from afar.”

Jayesh from Seattle, Washington writes that Bourdain was “one person who helped me understand what the word Traveler meant.” Ray Majumder of Albany, New York says Bourdain’s show “touched me emotionally and philosophically on a different level and his commentary, beautiful presentations and dry humor made me wish that I could accompany him in one of his journeys. RIP Anthony ...you will be missed.”

Nita wrote she started watching Bourdain and “felt as if he took me to places I could only dream of going to, foods I would never get to taste [and] only dream of being his assistant.”

She recalls watching his show after her mother died. “Feeling lost and alone I decided I was buying a plane ticket to Asia, one way, packing a backpack and going off the grid. I was going to eat with locals, and see the parts of Asia that I thought would only be a dream. I was going to find peace in losing my best friend and Mother through travel and food,” she wrote. “I would like to think if he would have ever known my story, he would have been proud of a 50 yr. old single woman leaving the East Coast (U.S.) and finding my way to new friends and an open mind to try anything even if I did not know what I was eating or even where I was going on a 7 week trip.”

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