A well-loved food icon and unparalleled chef, Anthony Bourdain rocked the world not only with his passion for food but with his attitude as well. Known for being sarcastic and brutally honest, Bourdain was never the type of chef or man to go without speaking his mind. This was what led to the wild success of his television shows as well as seemingly unbreakable bonds with those he met while traveling abroad. As a thrill-seeker, he made it his mission to try nearly anything as long as it wasn't something that could also double as someone's pet (he vowed never to eat cat or dog, no matter how much of a delicacy it was). This was the passion his fans loved about him; the effortless way that he just seemed to fit into any culture in an order to show the world what food -- and life -- could truly be like.
Among his many loves were also foods that he utterly despised, of which he made well-known to the general public. Feeling ashamed about loving or hating a certain thing was not something he was known for which is why he spoke freely of his favorite dishes. Fear of the public's opinion must have been the furthest thing from his mind because he wasn't afraid to tell anyone what he thought.
Bourdain was one of a kind and those who knew him, say that the best way to pay tribute to him is to eat and enjoy food as he did. Therefore, we're bringing you his most loved, as well as hated, dishes, so that you can bring a little Bourdain adventure to your own life.
It was no secret that Bourdain enjoyed his meats and that didn't mean they needed to be anything extraordinary. Muddled flavors were not his forte and choucroute garnie was a dish that was well-loved. This French meal consists of braised sauerkraut and both pork and sausage that has been cured. The flavor, simple yet understated, is something that makes the meat the star of this dish. Its simplicity doesn't allow one flavor to overpower another, making it a quick comfort food for visitors of France.
Of course, pastrami had to be on this list. Any true New Yorker knows what it's like to pick up a (real) pastrami sandwich from the deli, towering high with succulent meat, sauerkraut, and good mustard in between rye bread. Bourdain would often post on his Instagram about his love for the comfort food, saying, "there's no place like home". For those who have been lucky enough to engage in this NYC-specific delight, they know just as well how true it is.
Can you blame a guy for hating something that was designed to sear every taste bud you have? On its own, fried chicken has tremendous flavor when executed correctly and will provide you with the perfect balance of crunch and tender, juicy meat. However, Bourdain had a serious issue when it came to piling on the spice. He thought it was truly unappetizing and shared a word of caution to potential newcomers to the dish: "Unless you’ve got three or four days to spend in a bathroom, I really advise against that."
This was well-proclaimed on an episode of No Reservations when Bourdain traveled to Ibu Oka in Bali and tried their roasted suckling pig. Here, he made no secret of how delicious this pork was and those who knew him, knew how much he loved his pork. The restaurant continued to see lines after he left, attributing their growing popularity in part due to his visit. After a stellar review from such a well-renowned chef, Ibu Oka continues to thrive.
Some consider this dish to be the trademark of a late kitchen night, also calling it something of a midnight pasta. The process takes only minutes and by the end of it, you'll have a rich, flavorful pasta dish that took no effort whatsoever. Simple comfort foods such as this were seemingly high on Bourdain's list, and his affection for this pasta, in particular, was well-known. Anyone who has roots from Italy will recognize and understand this, too -- It's likely to be seen as a quick weeknight meal.
Hilariously enough, truffle oil was one of the condiments that were on Bourdain's "do not use" list. On an episode of The Tonight Show, he announced his dislike for the oil on national television, saying it's "about as edible as Astroglide and made from the same stuff". Anyone who knows truffles knows how challenging they are to come by, making pure truffle oil an extreme rarity. Taking that into account, he may not have been too far off with his comparison...
If you're a hardcore foodie, you'll recognize this restaurant from the Jiro Dreams of Sushi documentary. This is the same place that Bourdain referred to as a place he would go to if he was eating his last meal, and for good reason. It was one of his favorite restaurants, likely because all of their food was made fresh to order. Flavor-wise, the chefs at Jiro push the envelope and ensure that everything is flawless before leaving the kitchen. With only ten counter seats, it's easy to see why reservations are needed just to get a spot.
When asked about his favorite places to travel, Italy and Spain were on the same level as his favorite country, Vietnam. In Spain, Bourdain spoke of the same, simple charcuterie everyone does who is lucky enough to try it on their visit: Jamon Iberico. This cured ham is found solely in Italy (unless you spend thousands to import it) and is made from pigs who eat only acorns, lending to its delicious, unique flavor. Additionally, Bourdain spoke of how casual and laid-back eating is in the country, making it much more of an experience.
This is a sentiment that will likely be shared with many people while others will be amazed to hear of the chef's true opinion. Ranch dressing is best when made from scratch but even then, Bourdain detested it, saying it's "what's wrong with America". He claimed he didn't truly understand the flavor and couldn't imagine a scenario where it could make anything taste better. Understandably, a fresh vinaigrette is much better than a mix of buttermilk and mayo, but ouch.
Just because he was a world-renowned chef doesn't mean that Bourdain frowned upon the fast food wonders of the world. Shake Shack is well-known for their classic burgers and is loved by a surprising amount of foodies. While they're a large step above the white castle, it's still fast food, but according to Bourdain, this was a popular spot for him and his family. It should be noted that it had to be a "good" burger from Shake Shack -- We can't imagine what his reaction would have been had he gotten a bad one.
The way Bourdain described a club sandwich was like something akin to a devil's plaything. Not only was it excessively layered for those who happened to be extra hungry, but it featured an interior slice of bread that seemed to tick him off in the worst way possible. Anyone who has had a club sandwich knows this bread only adds unnecessary slippage to the eating process, making it infuriating when you're already incredibly hungry.
The chef was a believer in the fact that eggs would make just about anything better. While some chefs don't believe this -- such as Guy Fieri, who happens to hate eggs and yolks, in particular -- Bourdain felt differently. He'd openly exclaim that an egg would improve a dish and while it can't technically be counted as one of his favorite things to eat, it can definitely be counted as a favorite additive. We'd have to agree... If you've never had an egg on ramen, get yourself one stat.
There was simply no way around this. Bourdain despised the idea of chicken in a Caesar salad because inevitably, the chicken itself would end up dry, flavorless, and inedible. In fact, he hated this idea so much that he added it to his personal "Crimes Against Food" list. A section of Appetites, his cookbook, is reserved for this crime-specific, of which he writes, "God does not want you to put chicken on your Caesar."
As someone who worked in a cheese shop, there's no denying that cheese can be hella stenchy. What many people fail to realize is that a cheese's scent is extremely indicative of the condition of the cheese, and there's a difference between ammonia -- bad -- and mildewy or dirty-sock-smelling -- good. The smell is only an indicator of the flavor level of the cheese as well as the cheesemaking process, during which aging, wrapping, or bringing can bring about those strong smells. This is something Bourdain knew well and made sure to tell the world about.
Yet another comfort food that was high on the chef's list was mac 'n cheese. Not just any mac 'n cheese, though -- Bourdain had an affinity for the gooey, cheesy delight that could only be delivered by a fast food chain. Popeye's, in particular, was his go-to. Of which, he said he had an "unholy and guilty attraction to". He even went as far as to admit that he would dress down as much as he could in order to sneak into one of these restaurants just to satisfy his craving.
America had a blast with Bourdain's dismay after hearing of a certain president's particular taste for well-done meat, and suddenly the world knew of the chef's devotion to meat. He claimed that how a man takes his steak is "a window into his soul", expressing a deep belief that how you cook your meat is very telling of who you are. While it stands to be proven whether or not those who take a well-done steak are the worst kinds of people, it is true that you destroy essential meaty flavor by doing so...Which is kind of the same thing.
Back in 2016, Bourdain had a list of "Dream Dishes" for a food market. Of them, Bun Thai was one. His love for Vietnam was no secret and he had a love for the food that's created there and the passion that goes into creating it. Bun Thai, a simple yet extraordinarily flavorful dish, was high on his list of most-loved foods. It has been pictured on his Instagram and to be quite honest, it made all of us hungry, too.
Bourdain critiqued certain restaurants in the US for trying to take something that was just fine in a bottle and turning it into something of a delicacy. You'll find an increasing number of food establishments looking to make ketchup from scratch, and this was something Bourdain believed to be pointless. In fact, it was one of the things he avoided when eating out. He enjoyed the simplicity of basic American dishes and refused to convolute them with a tomato base.
Asian cuisine, in general, was high on Bourdain's list of favorite foods and soups were way up there. Everyone loves a good beef brisket, but something magical happens when this piece of tender meat is added to a flavorful wonton soup. Maks Noodle in Honk Kong made a dish that received high praise and was Instagram worthy for the chef; so much so that it was scouted for his own market. The proof is in the photo and it'll make your mouth water.
Singapore is yet another destination that packs a punch as far as flavor goes. There, you can find the Hill Street Fried Kway Teow, a restaurant making a dish called Char Kway Teow. This lively dish has a wide array of ingredients, such as cockles, Chinese sausage, pork cracklings, flat noodles, and even an egg to top it all off, as was traditional of one of Bourdain's loves. Not only does this dish sound good, albeit interesting, but it looked pretty incredible, too.
Anyone who has had the pleasure of eating real Kobe beef knows that it has no place in a burger or, really, anywhere it's going to be ground into little pieces. Kobe is a Japanese delicacy that would probably count as one of the best meats you've ever eaten in your life. Because of this, it's almost a crime to use it in something as Americanized as a burger, and this was a sentiment that Bourdain expressed. He even went as far as to encourage people to leave any restaurant that claims to have something like a Kobe beef slider on their menu.
There were many episodes of Bourdain's shows in which he ate seafood and he was no stranger to ceviche. Anything that was well-executed with a phenomenal flavor seemed to be enjoyed by him, and cod and octopus ceviche were no different. Served on a tostada, this dish also made it to his Instagram, and featured a delicious blend of fresh salsa made from peanuts, avocado, and dried chiles with a serrano chile-blended guacamole... Talk about really taking things up a notch.
Along with dishes that he loved, there were also some that he simply couldn't hide his disdain for, one of them being Frito pie. This dish was from the Five & Dime General Store that he went to in New Mexico on an episode of Parts Unknown and let's just say it didn't go over well. His exact sentiment of the how he felt while eating the dish was as follows: "In just six minutes, I’ve achieved a depth of self-loathing that it usually takes a night of drinking to achieve." Yikes.
We all love a good dim sum but Bourdain may have loved it a bit more than most of us. In keeping with his love for Asian cuisine, he expressed his passion for a well-done dim sum via his Instagram in 2016. A photo was posted of dim sum from Tim Howan, along with the caption, "scouting: Michelin-star rated dim sum". There were plenty of other delicacies laid out on the table and we can't imagine that they lasted too long after that photo was taken.
Last but not least, Bourdain had an interesting distaste for brioche buns being used as any type of burger bun. He argued that is was probably the last choice of bun for a burger, as it's not intended to be fancy or add anything but an absorbing cushion to the American comfort food. Rather, he went on to say that the Brioche bun just added grease, lacking "structural integrity". He also went on to say that, "the brioche bun, woefully unsuitable for this role, crumbles.” and that “God is against the brioche bun.”
References: cheatsheet.com, grubstreet.com, insidehook.com, travelandleisure.com, cnbc.com, thesouthernweekend.com, cnn.com, bravotv.com, thepointsguy.com