An Appraisal: Anthony Bourdain Was a Teller of Often Unappetizing Truths

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[Read more of our coverage on Anthony Bourdain’s death:

Anthony Bourdain, Chef, Travel Host and Author, is Dead at 61

Tony Was a Symphony’: Fans and Friends Remember Anthony Bourdain]

Mr. Bourdain was a blood-and-organs kind of guy, and he became identified with his unflinching, at times ostentatious, descriptions of life, death, sex and digestion. Footage of fly-speckled goats’ heads in open-air markets was to his travel shows what harbor sunsets were for other programs.

Although he wasn’t immune to hyperbole, he had an old-school chain-smoking newspaper editor’s hatred of self-serving hypocrisy, particularly in other television hosts. He delighted in mocking celebrity chefs like Guy Fieri (whose Times Square restaurant he called “the Terrordome”) and Paula Deen (“the worst, most dangerous person to America”).

At times Mr. Bourdain’s capacity as truth-teller could bleed into other, less salutary roles: the attention-seeking bully, the purveyor of well-polished shtick, the lecture-circuit fixture who, on cue, would curse like a line cook who has just chopped off the tip of his finger.

“I do a lot of speaking engagements and sometimes I feel like I’m being paid to curse in front of people who haven’t heard it in a while,” he said in a 2008 interview.

In the past few months, as accusations of sexual harassment and predatory behavior have shaken the restaurant industry, Mr. Bourdain’s swaggering accounts of kitchen life have come in for re-evaluation. He certainly took pleasure in telling outsiders what it was like. Was there some pride in there, too, in belonging to a band of misfits and rule-breakers? Had he helped to popularize a workplace culture in which misogyny and abuse were overlooked, tolerated and sometimes even celebrated?

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