"In Kitchen Confidential he wrote candidly about falling into a depression that was fanned by his substance abuse. “I could no longer bear even to pick up the phone; I’d just listen to the answering machine, afraid or unwilling to pick up, the plaintive entreaties of the caller an annoyance,” he wrote. “I was in hiding, in a deep, dark hole, and it was dawning on me — as I cracked my oysters, and opened clams, and spooned cocktail sauce into ramekins — that it was time, really time, to try to climb out.”
It was in the 80s that Bourdain said he looked in the mirror and decided he “wanted to live.”
“It wasn't that I had any discipline or strength necessarily,” he told trade publication Nation’s Restaurant News in a 2000 interview. “It was just that I'd decided that, among my friends and the people I'd come up with, I would survive and go on and live, and in order to do that, in order to do anything, there was absolutely no question that I would have to leave [drugs] behind me.”" Buzzfeed
We stopped watching Bourdain about a year ago. He was always entertaining and informative but the pain and desolation in his heart became so evident that I, for one, could not bear it any longer.
His account of his teen years as a kitchen assistant in a seaside resort was particularly hard to watch. I worked in such places during high school summers in coastal Maine as; bus boy, dish washer, baker's assistant, soda fountain ice cream guy, fry cook, short order cook and breakfast cook. The drugs, sex and rock and roll that he described in one program saturated the atmosphere with their seasonal people blend of; professional restaurant workers, local kids, tourists and college girls on the loose for the summer. That atmosphere ate him alive and I do not think he ever recovered from it. A profound sense of ennui settled over him that he never shook off. He may well have had a genetic disposition toward clinical depression but the cocaine, heroin and massive amounts of alcohol did not make it any better.
We still have recordings of some of his best shows. One was in Lyons and two were in Quebec where he was entertained by two zany Qubecois restaurateurs. Their feast, cooked up in a nice little building sitting on a frozen lake, was memorable. There were a lot of courses but I particularly liked the "bit" in which they grilled foie gras on the flat top of a wood burning stove.
For me, his saddest show was focused on a trip to what had once been a laird's hunting lodge in the Scottish Highlands. It is now a place of amusement for fat-assed City of London bankers and the like. There he was walked up into the hills, loaned an expensive rifle and pointed at a majestic stag. He dutifully shot the beast and was escorted down to the corpse where his keepers painted his face with the animal's arterial blood in a ceremony that once had an animistic meaning but now has none. I shot a lot of deer in my youth but was always just a pot hunter going to the woods to stay with my friends and uncles. I have always been strongly affected by the logo from the film "The Deerhunter," in which the wings on the Army parachute badge are replaced with the antlers of a stag. Bourdain's face smeared with the elk's blood brought that to mind. pl