Anthony Bourdain, noted chef, TV personality and author, was found dead in his France hotel room on Friday morning, and it sent shockwaves around the world. CNN, the network that aired his popular culinary travel show Parts Unknown, confirmed Bourdain died by suicide.
The man had travelled to hundreds (thousands?) of exotic locales over his lengthy career, from Argentina to Vietnam to Australia, and while Canada might not be considered the most luxurious or mysterious of places, Bourdain frequently visited the country in his travels.
Most notably, Bourdain stopped in Montreal, Toronto and, recently, Newfoundland and Labrador. While most of his Canadian visits were fraught with their own drama — Bourdain was, above all, an uncensored straight-shooter — underneath the facade it was clear the TV host had an affinity for the Great White North.
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Bourdain, famously schooled in French cuisine and having spent many summers in France, had a special connection with Montreal and the province of Quebec. “I love Montreal,” he famously said at the beginning of a May 2013 episode of Parts Unknown.
In the episode, he went ice fishing on the St. Lawrence River, trapping in the Quebec wilderness, and headed to Quebec City for decadent meals at both swanky and low-key restaurants, which was often Bourdain’s M.O.: he sought to expose the most bourgeoisie, but also the most rustic locales for his audiences.
In 2016, he said three Montreal chefs he’d featured on Parts Unknown should be declared national heroes.
“I’m a huge fan and loyalist and evangelical on the subject of Martin Picard and Fred and Dave at Joe Beef,” he said to The Canadian Press. “I mean, I think they’re not just good for Montreal. They’re good for Canada. They’re good for the world.
“I’d put all three of those guys on the Canadian currency,” he continued. “If I were in charge of such things they would be national heroes. They’d be iconic figures. The Canadian version of Mount Rushmore would have those three guys up there and maybe Jen [Agg] from Black Hoof [in Toronto] also.”
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Over the last decade, Bourdain visited Ontario’s capital twice — once in 2012 with The Layover, and again in 2016 on an 11-city tour he called The Hunger. (He also visited Toronto back in 2002.)
On the first visit he spent approximately 30 hours in the city, indulging in everything from spicy jerk chicken at Spence’s Bakery, which is now closed, to a dim sum treat at Forest View Chinese Restaurant. “Toronto does dim sum very, very well,” he said at the time. “It’s a strength, has been for a long time.”
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While he loved the food, he found Toronto’s architecture to be rather lacking.
“It’s not a good-looking city,” he said while taking a taxi through the city. “It’s not a good-looking town. You’ve got all the worst architectural fads of the 20th century. That’s crypto-fascist Bauhaus. Mussolini would have been perfectly at home in that one. Looks like every public school in America. And every third-tier public library.”
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Despite his opinion about the city’s buildings, upon his return in 2016, Bourdain continued to gush about Toronto’s food scene. His favourite restaurant in the city, bar none, was The Black Hoof.
“The number-one most recommended restaurant in Toronto is easily this place,” he said.
In an interview with Global News’ Alan Carter (above), Bourdain said Toronto should be proud of its peameal bacon sandwich, and even suggested it should become the city’s signature dish.
Things got hairy recently when Bourdain visited Newfoundland and Labrador for Parts Unknown. Among other things, he ate fish and chips — of course — in Petty Harbour, went cod fishing in the village of Quidi Vidi, and even went hunting for moose.
Jeremy Charles, head chef at Raymond’s in downtown St. John’s, served Bourdain menu items and showed off the province’s splendours. Local foodies were overjoyed by his visit, but soon enough there was controversy: the Twitter account for the CNN show used the term “Newfie” in a now-deleted tweet.
“Embrace the Newfies as they are,” it read.
Social media users were quick to jump on the use of a term that’s considered derogatory, with origins implying Newfoundlanders are unintelligent and lazy.
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Even as other Newfoundlanders said they didn’t find the term offensive, Seamus O’Regan, a St. John’s MP and the federal minister of veterans affairs, tweeted simply: “We don’t like it.”
Late Thursday afternoon, the show acknowledged the criticism on Twitter, offered an apology and appeared to delete the original tweet.
“We regret our use of the word ‘Newfie’ to describe the people of Newfoundland. We apologize for any offence and will stick to Newfoundlanders going forward,” it said.
A little later, it added: “Tweets on this account are not written or reviewed by Anthony Bourdain. Once again we apologize.”
After the Newfoundland and Labrador episode aired, someone asked Bourdain on Twitter why the Montreal chefs were with him on the trip.
“Why would Anthony Bourdain bring French Canadian snot [sic] chefs to Newfoundland? Anthony you did a diservice [sic] to the cuisine and hospitality of Newfoundland.”
Bourdain wasn’t impressed. He fired back, saying it was the two chefs’ “relentless advocacy for Newfoundland” that encouraged him to visit the province.
“Why were two ‘Frenchies’ on the last (episode) of Parts Unknown Newfoundland? Because they were solely responsible for enticing me there,” he replied.
However, Bourdain’s reference to “Frenchies” sparked even more discord, while others jumped to his defence.
His visit to the east coast was his final sojourn to Canada.
— With files from The Canadian Press
If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 911 for immediate help.
The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, Depression Hurts and Kids Help Phone (1-800-668-6868) all offer ways for getting help if you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues.
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