I travel for Tony. Anthony Bordain. AKA, Tony. Legendary top chef, restaurateur, and TV personality of CNN's Parts Unknown—the best travel show I have ever watched and my favorite TV show of all time.
I got to know him because of PartsUnknown and I became obsessed. I loved him since the first episode. His way of journalism and combining everything he loved into one seamless body of harmony of art was so good that I walked away creatively enlightened. It was true cinematic, television art. I watched all seasons (each episode was 40-50 minutes long) for a solid four months. I would watch one episode a night as my little treat after school. I was obsessed. The show was so good. But then I wondered, "How did this dude get on the map?" So I started researching and I found out that he lived a rough life in a nomadic-drug-addict-slightly-homeless-and-struggling, kind of way. But it was badass. He's got some cool stories. Do your research on it. But in the end, when he worked at a fish fry place in New Jersey, he decided to become a chef.
I still remember this one episode where he went home. The show was about him going to the place that he spent most of his late teen into young adult years. He basically explained his entire life story in a episode and it was so profound that I actually walked away with hair sticking up on my arms. It was haunting and sad and... in a twisted, sick way... badass and kind of beautiful. His life had been so bad. So cool. So sad. But he moved on from his druggie days and decided to do something with his life.
He died June 8, 2018 of suicide. No one knows why. Some sources say that he had been overworked and kind of going crazy. Others say that he had some deep dark shit going on that he didn't even tell Eric Ripert, fellow Michelin star chef and his closest friend. I believe it. I think his spunk, his crassness, his crusty exterior gave off a vibe and an impression all of the time that he was angry about something, in a laissez-faire kind of way. I think the people he knew just thought it was his personality, but in reality, it was something much deeper.
I love this man because he changed my perception of what journalism, a job, and the world could be. He changed my perception of how people's culture and their food are so intertwined and closely related. He would talk food, but then also talk culture. History. He would talk to the people he would travel with about their life; their personal lives. It was remarkably intimate approach for a TV show. He uncovered things about people and places that He could only do; with his style, charisma, and charm. He seemed to just uncover people and peel back all of their layers so that the audience could really get to know them. His talent was something to behold and it was so so beautiful in so many ways. Him, his show, his lifestyle; changed everything that I knew about journalism and more so about life, travel and food. He inspired me to push every boundary when it comes to cooking. Scratch everything that you believe, trust, and know about cooking. It doesn't matter. Traveling should be uncharted. Don't have an itinerary. Itineraries take away from the raw experience. Meet many many people along the way. Talk to everyone. Get to know them. Strangers shouldn't be strangers; regardless of language, culture, race, gender, whatever. What matters is the unknown.
Thank you Tony for shaping me into the person I am today. You never knew me. I wish you did. I never knew you. I wish I did. I wish I could have had my bucket list lunch with you. I wish I could have gone on adventures with you and your creative team. I wish I could have been on your creative team. It would have been my dream come true.