In a beloved episode of CNN’s “Parts Unknown,” Anthony Bourdain sits down on a busy city street in Vietnam to sample Cơm hến, a dish made with clams and rice. He calls the country his “first love” and one of his “favorite places on Earth.”
“All of the things I need for happiness,” the host said during the segment, gesturing to the items surrounding him. “Little plastic stool, check. Tiny little plastic table, check. Something delicious in a bowl, check.”
The celebrity chef was known for visiting Asian countries and helping spotlight Asian cuisine in the U.S. in an honorable way that didn’t exoticize or whitewash their dishes. After hearing about Bourdain’s death at age 61 in an apparent suicide on Friday, Asians and Pacific-Islanders took to social media to remember a man who had long held a deep respect for their culture.
“Bourdain never treated our food like he ‘discovered’ it,” tweeted Jenny Yang, a Los Angeles-based comedian. “He kicked it with grandma because he knew that HE was the one that needed to catch up to our brilliance.”
Bourdain never treated our food like he "discovered" it. He kicked it with grandma because he knew that HE was the one that needed to catch up to our brilliance. I wish so much for his legacy to take hold in western (mostly white) food media culture. What a loss. I'm so sad.
— Jenny Yang ?????? (@jennyyangtv) June 8, 2018
During Bourdain’s nearly two-decade career as a television host for the Travel Channel and CNN, the chef visited cities across Asia and the Pacific Islands to learn more about the local food scene. Instead of trivializing or tokenizing their cuisine and culture, Bourdain was the kind of traveler who would sit down with native chefs, learn to savor unfamiliar foods, and then share his appreciation for these dishes with the wider world.
In particular, Asian and Pacific-Islander Twitter users credited the chef with helping Western audiences appreciate Asian street food.
anthony bourdain did so much for food deemed 'weird' and made the unknown exciting. for asian countries—and even more for SE asians, he had us seen and heard. he spoke with kindness and empathy, but with a sharp tongue. rip to one of the greats
— diane paik (@2cute2tweet) June 8, 2018
Also, Anthony Bourdain was really the first to appreciate Asian street food and put it on the map. While others saw it as unrefined and even “gross”, he celebrated it and made it “cool”. A true pioneer. I will be forever grateful to him for this!
— dorothy wang (@dorothywang) June 8, 2018
Filipino Twitter buzzed on Friday with reflections about how Bourdain helped introduce their cuisine to Western audiences.
Chef Claude Tayag told CNN Philippines that his restaurant Bale Dutung ― which translates to House of Wood ― in Angeles City became well-known after Bourdain paid a visit during an episode of the Travel Channel show “No Reservations” in 2008. Tayag credits the television host with introducing his viewers to “sisig,” a traditional dish made with chopped pork.
“Let’s remember him for what he’s done … for introducing ‘sisig’ to the world,” Tayag told the station.
Another Filipino chef, Joel Binamira, paid tribute to Bourdain in an Instagram post for “shining the global spotlight on Filipino food.”
Sa mga Filipino na hindi kilala is Anthony Bourdain, here is what he once said about us. Thank you @Bourdain for loving the Philippines as much as we do. #RIPAnthonyBourdain pic.twitter.com/6DENyPM1UJ
— Patricia Blasquez (@mspblasquez) June 8, 2018
I remember Anthony @Bourdain for the spotlight he shed years ago on Filipino food, and the special place he had in its heart for Filipinos. This episode of Parts Unknown brought tears to my eyes. You will be missed. https://t.co/mNMMIcbMoV
— Jon Qui Qui (@jonquiqui) June 8, 2018
— julius babao (@juLiusbabao) June 8, 2018
Bourdain also made sure to address the political and social climate in the countries he visited. In a 2014 “Parts Unknown” episode, the chef spoke about how the 1947 partition of Pakistan and India affected local farmers in Punjab, India.
Sikh scholar Simran Jeet Singh tweeted about how important that episode was for him.
Anthony Bourdain connected and humanized people through food. His episode on Punjab was one of the first times I saw people who looked like me on television not depicted as violent aggressors or as helpless victims. Thank you, Anthony, and rest in peace. https://t.co/QtQCt4Viw0
— Simran Jeet Singh (@SikhProf) June 8, 2018
Read on to see how other Asians and Pacific-Islanders on Twitter are responding to Bourdain’s death.
Very heartbroken right now. Whenever I get homesick for Vietnam, I’d put on one of Bourdain’s many Vietnam eps in his shows. That kind of trust in the way a white man portrays my culture is not easy to cultivate, and I doubt if there’ll be another like him.
— Phuong Le (@smallnartless) June 8, 2018
In addition to his vast contributions to the politics of food, Anthony Bourdain was one of the first not to shun Asian/Indian cuisine as lesser. He was a force of inclusivity and culture, and will truly be missed. RIP Tony. Hope there are Salamanders in heaven.
— Kavitha A. Davidson (@kavithadavidson) June 8, 2018
Many in Hawaii will mourn Anthony Bourdain's death. When he covered Hawaii's food scene for CNN, most in the state agreed that he was among the best who most accurately and respectfully reported the food culture. He called on the right people, including my two friends here. RIP.. pic.twitter.com/xhCPSNeKdO
— Gene Park (@GenePark) June 8, 2018
The respect that Anthony @Bourdain had for the food of every culture was unparalleled on television—it was never “exotic” or otherizing. He took the time to understand the people + the history behind the food, all while being a loud advocate for many who have been in the shadows.
— ????? ???? (@altonwang) June 8, 2018
— Kristine Phillips (@kristinegWP) June 8, 2018
If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also text HOME to 741-741 for free, 24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line. Outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of resources.