The late great Anthony Bourdain was much more than just a celebrity chef, he was an embodiment of everything that the punk movement represented and brought that to a whole new field. His documentaries were about as rock ‘n’ roll as you can get and tore up the rulebook on what travelogues could be. With his pioneering approach, Bourdain guided the viewer around the globe through his maverick lens which should come as no surprise considering a selection of his musical heroes.
Bourdain is a figure who became synonymous with non-conformity. Whether through his progressive food, his dedication to the dive bar and all its inhabitants, or his adoration of all things punk, Anthony Bourdain was a bastion of anti-establishment splendour and he was determined to integrate his two passions. This ingrained love of the attitude of music that Bourdain embedded into his world, one which was universally left in a state of mourning following his tragic death in 2018.
The chef was a well-known champion of New York’s punk movement and, somewhat coincidentally, Bourdain was also at the forefront of the food scene as it began to bubble away in the cauldron of NYC’s backstreets. It was a marriage made in heaven for the young Bourdain who saw both chefs and musicians as creative equals, both working in similar undulating patterns, both touching the darkest reaches of the city every night and both, it would seem, with an unstoppable thirst for chaos.
There is one figure from that aforementioned New York punk movement that was more pivotal than any other in the development of Bourdain as a punk which is Johnny Thunder — the late guitarist of the pioneering New York Dolls. They were both hanging around the city at the same time as each other and helped usher in a new face of culture for the East Coast.
“Johnny Thunders guitar made life worth living again and gave permission to everything good that followed, like New York punk. Joyously nihilistic,” Bourdain once said about his musical hero, who also happened to be a great friend of his.
Marky Ramone reminisced fondly about Bourdain’s integral part in shaping that New York punk scene following the chef’s death in 2018. “When we talked about music, he’d tell me about how he used to hang around CBGBs,” wrote the drummer in Rolling Stone. “He loved the whole atmosphere of the place and the political connotations of the whole movement. We talked about how we liked the same music – Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers, the Dolls, the Ramones, Blondie, the Pistols – and he despised right-wing, conservative fanaticism.
“He was a true punk. I mean, look, he did what he did. He tried to maintain a lifestyle without all that garbage in his system, but it was very hard. I always knew there was some kind of edginess in him. But then again, when you do things like [drugs] for part of your life, a lot of times it stays with you. It’s hard to get rid of. I mean, I can relate to it because I had my demons,” Ramone added.
Bourdain lived and breathed punk. He was a true New Yorker who was gifted with an attitude that made him the ultimate rebel that brought this fresh no-fucks-given, maverick counter-culture spirit into a whole new realm which has been missed greatly over the last two years since he departed. Anthony Bourdain, a punk icon.