The much-beloved American writer, television show presenter, foodie and former chef Anthony Bourdain passed away in June last year in a an apparent suicide. Bourdain was in France at the time. The news shocking. We were fans of his books, as well of his food and travel TV series “No Reservations” and “Parts Unknown.” The latter was still in production for CNN when Bourdain died. Within days a mural of Bourdain was painted in tribute to him by artist Jonas Never.
The artwork is on an exterior wall of the Gramercy, a restaurant in Santa Monica, in Los Angeles, and it has become a local landmark. You can find it on 25th Street near the southwest corner at Wilshire Boulevard.
Murals of homage and tribute are not new. Portraits of movie stars and rock stars as well as grass-roots political leaders have often been painted in remembrance of their talents and greatness after their deaths. But a celebrity chef? Rare.
Granted Bourdain’s celebrity was attained near the tail end of his hands-on culinary career. He wrote his bestselling memoir “Kitchen Confidential” while still in the employ at the New York City restaurant Les Halles. The book made him a small “c” celebrity in the world of food and foodies.
He wrote several more successful books and became a fixture on cable-TV cooking shows a la the Food Network. Later, his own TV shows transcended the cooking genre and became more about travel albeit with food at its center. These were travelogues. Each episode was in essence a mini-documentary about a country, its culture and cuisine, its history and society.
We lived vicariously as Bourdain shuttled by plane, boat, train, car, horseback, etc., from one destination to another, from one cultural landmark to the other, sampling both the sublime and the touristy, while also sampling an incredible array of local restaurant fare. As a result of CNN’s “Parts Unknown” popularity, Bourdain had practically become a household name.