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6 ways to celebrate Anthony Bourdain on Bourdain Day


(Washington Post illustration; Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for Food Network SoBe Wine & Food Festival)

It started with an Instagram post. Two of the world’s most prominent chefs, Éric Ripert and José Andrés, stood smiling on camera to proclaim a new holiday. “On June 25, we all are going to celebrate the birthday of our dear friend and beloved Anthony Bourdain,” Ripert says in the post.

The two take turns piecing together a single request: “We want all of you to celebrate Tony’s life.” To do that, all you need to do is pick up a beverage of your choosing and toast to Bourdain on camera, and post the moment to social media with the hashtag #BourdainDay. The chefs complete their announcement by taking long pulls from their porróns, a traditional wine pitcher from Spain.

Ripert wanted to take the lead on shaping the dialogue around the legacy of Bourdain, who died by suicide June 8 of last year. To change the tone of the conversation from solemn to celebratory, Ripert ordained June 25 Bourdain Day.

“The idea was to create, on his birthday, an event that anyone can contribute to, something that is low-production,” the chef of Le Bernardin says in a phone interview. “We will make sure that Anthony is being remembered on his birthday, and not when he left. We will keep this tradition year after year.”

To participate in Bourdain Day is simple. “It’s so easy to lift your beer or a glass of wine or tea, whatever you want,” Ripert says. The gesture allows as many people as possible to get involved, and its social element brings everyone together, at least digitally.

Some people will get together in person for the occasion. This year, Ripert will celebrate Bourdain Day with Andrés in Singapore, where the two will be gathered for this year’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards. They plan on toasting together with a beer over some street food. “Something that Anthony liked to do,” Ripert said, “which was, as you know, going to the hawkers in Singapore or eating in the streets and having a beer.”


Anthony Bourdain, left, and Éric Ripert, who crowned a day to honor his late friend, in 2014. (Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for Food Network SoBe Wine & Food Festival)

The beauty of the Bourdain Day toast is that you can do it anywhere. “People can celebrate at home, people can celebrate at the top of a mountain, people can celebrate in a bar in Guatemala, in Antigua. People can celebrate anywhere,” Andrés says. “The point is we can all honor him by doing a little video and tag along."

Beyond their toasts, Andrés and Ripert will support a new scholarship established by the Culinary Institute of America, his alma mater, in Bourdain’s memory. The Anthony Bourdain Legacy Scholarship will support cooks who dream of following in Bourdain’s footsteps by traveling abroad. “He was a guy who educated all of us,” Andrés says. “This is a way to use his memory to keep educating the future talent in the food world in all of its forms.”

If you’re looking for ways to celebrate the immense life of Bourdain in addition to raising your glass on Tuesday, here are five more suggestions:

Plan a trip

Bourdain saw travel as a great unifying force. One of his most referenced quotes, from the series finale of “No Reservations,” is about the ability of travel to expand worldviews and empathy:

“If I’m an advocate for anything, it’s to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. The extent to which you can walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food, it’s a plus for everybody. Open your mind, get up off the couch, move."

Take those words of wisdom into account and plan a trip into the unknown, whether that’s 50 miles away or 5,000.


Bourdain holds his daughter, Ariane, in 2008. (Lynne Sladky)

Volunteer your time

A man who spent some 250 days per year on the road, Bourdain still made time for volunteer work.

“He always came back to help raise money for World Central Kitchen without getting paid, without anything,” Andrés says. “He never said no.”

Carve out space in your schedule to volunteer, or make a donation to a worthy cause.

Support a mom-and-pop restaurant

Part of what made Bourdain stand out from others in food media was his appreciation of food at every level. He gave credit where credit was due. You don’t have to dine at a Michelin-starred restaurant to dine like Bourdain; appreciate the people in your neighborhood who pour their hearts into their cooking. Dive in hungry and “eat without fear, tearing into the local stew, the humble taqueria’s mystery meat,” as he wrote in “Kitchen Confidential.”

Consume Bourdain’s literature

Before Bourdain was on TV, he was writing articles and books. We’re lucky to have his quick-wit immortalized on paper and online.

“He always said he was he was really lucky, and he got a big break. He always said he never believed he would be a New York Times bestseller,” Andrés says. “Really? You write like the gods! You could argue why it didn’t happen before, no?"

You can start where it all began with his 1999 essay in the New Yorker, “Don’t Eat Before Reading This.” Then pick up some of his classics, like “Kitchen Confidential,” or try cooking a dish from “Appetites: A Cookbook.”

Binge Bourdain on television

It’s always a good idea to turn on a Bourdain show. Fortunately, those episodes are easily accessible with the right streaming subscriptions (here’s where to find them all.)

Try the “No Reservations” Quebec episode (Season 2, Episode 4) that humanized Inuit fishing traditions and the “No Reservations” Beirut episode (Season 2, Episode 14) in which violent conflict breaks out, an experience that “was clearly a defining moment for the show — and some kind of crossroads for me personally,” Bourdain later told Blogs of War in 2014. Don’t sleep on “The Layover,” either. The places he visits in Los Angeles at the end of the first season still hold up (looking at you, Tiki Ti).


Bourdain talking with Jason and Yeganeh Rezaian in Iran while filming "Parts Unknown." (CNN)

One of Andrés’s recommendations: Bourdain’s episode in Iran on “Parts Unknown.” If you want to understand what an important person Tony was, watch his show on Iran,” Andrés says. “There you will see that actually the American people should not be afraid of the Iranian people. They don’t look any different than you and I on that amazing show.”

Whether on Tuesday, or any other day, there is much to honor when it comes to Bourdain. He meant a lot of things to a lot of people.

“Tony was this person who gave a voice to the voiceless,” Andrés says. “He was able to show us the unknown side of humanity. The show brought us together.”

Read more:

Why Iranians love Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain laid it all on the table — our food and our humanity

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