Right around my early 20’s was when I first started to fall in love with food and cooking. At this time, I also began working with another colleague who I quickly discovered shared the same love for food and the adventure it offered. Although our careers were completely unrelated to anything culinary, we became fast friends over this interest we shared. Every work trip we’d scour the local restaurant options, meticulously planning our food tour while we were in a new city. We’d choke down hotel waffles for breakfast and bring a “buffet banana” for lunch in an effort to save all our per diem to go to Bobby Flay’s restaurant that night in Vegas. We’d find a hot little tequila bar in the new town I moved to or a raw, vegan restaurant in the city; no matter where we were if we were together, we were splitting lunches, dinners and checks until our pants split. We loved it and it became our special bond.
Like every good foodie, we each had our own chef crushes and it was something we discussed often, as if one day our silver foxes would be joining us for dinner. Mid work day she’d send me an article she found about mine, I’d send her hysterical quotes from hers and we especially loved it when they’d do anything together. It worked out, because the chefs also happened to be best friends. My crush was the always sophisticated, French chef Eric Ripert and hers, the seemingly rough around the edges and always on an adventure, food traveler and chef Anthony Bourdain. A seemingly unlikely pair at first glance; Anthony, a little crass and openly shared about his cocaine filled nights in his early restaurant days and Eric, with his perfect silver hair and the whitest linen tablecloths and chef’s coat you’ve ever seen, owning only the best seafood restaurant in American. Eric always seemed to have a bashful grin listening to the adventuresome accounts of Tony’s world travels, women and food. Anthony seemed to make friends with everyone he encountered and told stories in a way no one else could; you could see it in his best friend’s smile every time he indulged him. The love these two had for each other was obvious to anyone who saw them together, giggling over drinks as they changed the world one bite at a time; one on a tiny fish fork, the other, probably eating something spicy with his hands in the best restaurant no one had ever heard of.
Their’s was a friendship we all hope to be so fortunate to find, that “ying” to your “yang”. Uncommon friends in the very best way. They delighted in one another, and we delighted in following along.
Earlier this month, Eric lost his best friend too soon. Working on a project together in France, Eric went to find his friend in his hotel room, unresponsive. Two weeks before his 62nd birthday, Anthony took his own life.
Nothing ever quite makes me examine life as much as death. I know I am not alone in that in his own unique way, Anthony was able to connect with people across the world whether you had met him or not. He connected with me, and I missed him immediately.
Because of this tragedy, I am faced to examine my own life, feelings and the feelings of those around me even more closely. Here’s what I know:
No one is immune. There is not amount of love, wealth, fame, fortune or Christianity that makes you immune from depression or seasons of hopelessness. I don’t need a PhD to tell you it can be just as lonely at the top as it is at the bottom. These feelings are not something to be ashamed or embarrassed of. In the same way that you shouldn’t tell others they shouldn’t feel a certain way, we need to extend that same grace to ourselves. Time spent telling yourself you shouldn’t, is not time well spent. If you’re having feelings of hopelessness, depression or loneliness, those deserve to be heard and deserve to be cared for by those who love you… and people do love you and want to do that for you. Feelings like these don’t make you a failure or mean you’ve got a bad life, they just make you human and you weren’t meant to go through this alone.
Pay attention to what your body and mind are telling you. Your mind is more powerful than most give it credit for, for good and for evil, for sickness and for health. Be cognizant of how your environment influences you, people influence you, how what you eat and drink influences you, changes your mood and your mindset. “Let food be your medicine or medicine will be your food.” What you put in your body matters, listen to what it tells you. Not everything is for everyone.
Make a commitment to say something. You might be reading this thinking you’ve never felt this way, and that’s great. That doesn’t mean you never will. Promises made in a healthy mind can still be honored by the unhealthy one if that day does come. Commit with me today that if you ever get to a point where you’re feeling concerned and don’t know what to do, that you’ll reach out to someone. I am making that commitment with you. If you’re not sure who to talk to who will care, talk to me. My number is all over this blog, call me, I care. Don’t listen to the lie; you’re not alone and we will not let you go out like that.
Finally, I am dedicating this weekend to Tony’s memory. This week should have been his 62nd birthday and while his life ended too soon, his legacy deserves to be celebrated. I think Tony would be most honored to be remembered as lived: always on an adventure and with “no reservations”. Traveling, tasting and connecting to people and the world around him, always staying curious. This weekend try something new. Eat something you’ve never tried, make something you’ve never made, talk to someone you’ve never met, go somewhere you’ve never gone.
Live like you’re alive.
Tag me on your adventure this weekend, maybe I will see you out there.