The late Anthony Bourdain was world-famous for breaking down barriers to other countries’ cuisines, showing the world why you shouldn’t fear the unfamiliar. He rarely shied away from any crazy food choices (he once ate a still-beating cobra heart in Vietnam), but he did refuse to visit one surprising country.
No, Bourdain wasn’t afraid of political turmoil or unsanitary conditions. He was scared of Switzerland.
Chef Anthony Bourdain through the years
Chef Anthony Bourdain through the years
UNITED STATES - APRIL 12: Chef Anthony Bourdain has a drink at Tintol restaurant in Times Square. Bourdain, 49, is the star of 'Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations,' the Travel Channel series that's half travelogue and half food show. Traveling constantly for the show, on which he regularly grosses viewers out by eating such delicacies as fermented shark meat in Iceland - 'the smell alone would stop a rhinoceros in its tracks,' he says - means he's only in his Manhattan apartment a few days out of the month. (Photo by James Keivom/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
(AUSTRALIA & NEW ZEALAND OUT) Chef Anthony Bourdain, 27 October 2003. AFR Picture by MICHELE MOSSOP (Photo by Fairfax Media via Getty Images)
MIAMI BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 26: Chef Anthony Bourdain does a cooking demonstration at the South Beach Food And Wine Festival on February 26, 2005 in Miami Beach, Florida. (Photo by Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - APRIL 21: Chef Tom Colicchio and TV personality Anthony Bourdain attend the Food Bank For New York City's Sixth Annual Can-Do Awards at Abigail Kirsch's Pier Sixty at Chelsea Piers on April 21, 2009 in New York City (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/WireImage for BWR)
MIAMI BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 28: Eric Ripert and Anthony Bourdain attend the 2010 South Beach Wine and Food Festival Grand Tasting Village on February 28, 2010 in Miami Beach, Florida. (Photo by Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images)
MIAMI BEACH, FL - JUNE 30: Anthony Bourdain discusses his book 'Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook' presented by Books and Books at Lincoln Theatre on June 30, 2010 in Miami Beach, Florida. (Photo by Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images)
TOP CHEF -- 'An Offer They Can't Refuse' Episode 808 -- Pictured: (l-r) Jduges Tom Colicchio, Anthony Bourdain (Photo by David Giesbrecht/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Anthony Bourdain attends the Whole Foods Market Grand Tasting Village during the 2011 South Beach Wine and Food Festival on February 27, 2011 in Miami Beach, Florida. (Photo by John Parra/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 19: TV personality Anthony Bourdain attends the Great Googa Mooga 2012 at Prospect Park on May 19, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images)
LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON -- Episode 650 -- Pictured: (l-r) Anthony Bourdain, Jimmy Fallon -- (Photo by: Ira James/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THE TASTE - ABC's 'The Taste' features no-holds barred chef Anthony Bourdain. (Photo by Sasha Shemirani/ABC via Getty Images)
PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 10: Anthony Bourdain attends the Disney ABC Television Group 2013 TCA Winter Press Tour at The Langham Huntington Hotel and Spa on January 10, 2013 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)
MIAMI BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 23: Anthony Bourdain attends the South Beach Wine and Food Festival 2013 Grand Tasting Village on February 23, 2013 in Miami Beach, Florida. (Photo by John Parra/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 02: Anthony Bourdain signs his book at Hey New York: Meet Anthony Bourdain + Eric Ripert book signing event for his book 'Appetites: A Cookbook' at Williams-Sonoma Columbus Circle on December 2, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Owen Hoffmann/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - NOVEMBER 10: TV personality Anthony Bourdain attends 'Parts Unknown Last Bite' Live CNN Talk Show hosted by Anthony Bourdain at Atomic Liquors on November 10, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada. 24280_001_0026.JPG (Photo by Isaac Brekken/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 10: (L-R) Senior vice president for talent and content development Amy Entelis, Anthony Bourdain and Senior vice president of development and acquisitions Vinnie Malhotra attend the CNN Upfront 2014 at Skylight Modern on April 10, 2014 in New York City. 24679_002_0417.JPG (Photo by Bryan Bedder/WireImage for Turner Networks)
THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JIMMY FALLON -- Episode 0657 -- Pictured: (l-r) Author/Chef Anthony Bourdain and host Jimmy Fallon during an interview on April 19, 2017 -- (Photo by: Andrew Lipovsky/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 04: Chef, Author and TV Personality Anthony Bourdain attends The 2015 Bronx Academy Of Letters Chefs' Tasting Benefit at The Edison Ballroom on March 4, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Ben Hider/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 02: (L-R) Chef Mario Batali, Artist Shantell Martin, and Chef Anthony Bourdain attend The (RED) Supper hosted by Mario Batali with Anthony Bourdain on June 2, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 12: Anthony Bourdain attends the 2015 Creative Arts Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 12, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 08: Author/chef Anthony Bourdain attends the 2015 Center For Fiction Benefit & Awards at The Metropolitan Club on December 8, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Mireya Acierto/Getty Images)
Anthony Bourdain poses with the outstanding informational series or special award for "Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown" backstage at the 2015 Creative Arts Emmy Awards in Los Angeles, California September 12, 2015. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok
REFILE-QUALITY REPEAT U.S. President Barack Obama talks with Anthony Bourdain after an interview at a shopping area of Hanoi, Vietnam May 24, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 12: Anthony Bourdain and Asia Argento attend the 2018 Women In The World Summit at David H. Koch Theater, Lincoln Center on April 12, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Paul Bruinooge/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 18:Anthony Bourdain is seen in midtown on January 18, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Raymond Hall/GC Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 09: Asia Argento and Anthony Bourdain attend the 2017 Creative Arts Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 9, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 19: Anthony Bourdain attends Build Series Presents discussing The New Documentary 'Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent'at Build Studio on April 19, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Steve Mack/FilmMagic)
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That’s right, Bourdain had a “morbid fear” of a country famous for peace, chocolate, and cheese. “I must have had some terrible childhood experience while watching Sound of Music that I blocked out,” he told Conan O’Brien on Conan. “Even alpine vistas, like snow-capped peaks or Lake Geneva, or cuckoo clocks or those hats with the feathers—even the cheese; it’s scary to me.” (Learn 13 more ways Anthony Bourdain changed the way the world eats.)
Like with any irrational fear, Bourdain couldn’t put his finger on what it was that freaked him out about the Swiss, but yodeling did spike his anxiety even more. “You just feel that in your marrow,” he said. “I mean, it’s horrifying.”
The best lessons Anthony Bourdain taught us about food
The best lessons Anthony Bourdain taught us about food
When it comes to food, looks aren't everything
Sure, he’s eaten at some of the world’s finest restaurants, where plating is everything (one of his top spots was Per Se in New York—tapioca “sabayon” with oysters and caviar, anyone?), but Anthony Bourdain was no snob when it came to appearance. As he toldFood & Wine, “some of the most inherently delicious food has been pickled, butchered, braised, stewed, and/or charred in a way that maximizes flavor, visual appeal be damned.”
Don't be afraid to try something new
“Good food and good eating are about risk,” Bourdain wrote in his bestseller Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly. Through his TV travel adventures, the chef has eaten everything from a beating cobra heart to a raw seal eyeball, which he claimed were similar to an oyster and “not bad,” respectively. For viewers at home, the take-home message is: You won’t know if you don’t try. While raw organs aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, Bourdain encourages fans to open their minds to new foodie experiences—but you can always start with switching up the cheese on your turkey sandwich.
Never order fish on Mondays -- until now
Even before writing Kitchen Confidential, Bourdain shocked the world with his breakout 1999 New Yorker essay revealing behind-the-scenes trade secrets from chefs. One of his most surprising: Seafood dishes usually aren’t very fresh on Mondays, when the fish is usually leftovers ordered for the weekend crowd. Restaurant goers followed the advice for years, but fast-forward 17 years and Bourdain changed his tune. “It's almost two decades later. Things have changed,” he told Business Insider, lamenting on the fact that it's still one of his most often-quoted tips. These are other foods chefs never order in restaurants.
Typical "foodie" destinations don't have the only great eats
Rome? Been there. Paris? Done that. With his CNN show Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown the chef sampled local cuisine off the beaten path, bringing overlooked cities and countries to the public eye. Vicariously joining the chef on his journeys, viewers got to experience the cultures of Trinidad, Tanzania, Borneo, and countless others.
How to spot the best local eats
Tourists always want to feel in-the-know about the best a city has to offer—but Bourdain knew not to just scan Yelp and call it a day. He told Bon Appétit to keep an eye out for long lines and non-touristy signs. “If a place is crowded, but the people lining up are not local, that’s a clue—a bad clue,” he said. “If it doesn’t have signs in English, it’s almost always worth investigating. I look to see if locals are willing to inconvenience themselves and wait in line for a long time to get something that only costs $1.50, especially if it’s a mixed bag of different incomes.” Don't miss these other 24 things restaurant owners wish they could tell you.
Get cozy with the locals
Restaurant food might seem like the safer bet in foreign countries, but Bourdain wouldn’t shy away from a home cooked meal for a more authentic experience. “Generally speaking, there are countries where total strangers will invite you into their homes,” he told Bon Appétit. “In Tehran, just by virtue of being an American, you will probably be invited to dinner. I’d say, just be open. Don’t be afraid.”
"Cheap, good food" isn't a paradox
One of Bourdain’s top spots was a hot dog joint of all places. At now-closed Hot Doug’s in Chicago, surprisingly affordable foie gras dogs were served up in paper trays. “It's proof that food doesn't have to be expensive to be great,” Bourdain said about it in Men’s Health.
Quit demonizing butter
The health-conscious side of you might gasp in horror at a butter-soaked meal, but Bourdain unapologetically proclaimed you’ll find almost a full stick worth of butter in the best restaurant meals. “In the world of chefs … butter is in everything,” he wrote. Unless you want to give up pasta (yes, the noodles themselves), sauces, meat, and fish, you’ll have to give in to the fact that you’ll be consuming a whole lot of butter. Check out 57 more secrets restaurant servers won't tell you.
Fresh is worth the extra effort
Bourdain was all about going fresh well before farm-to-table became a craze. In Kitchen Confidential, he scorned the idea of using jarred garlic in place of fresh cloves. “Avoid at all costs that vile spew you see rotting in oil in screwtop jars. Too lazy to peel fresh? You don't deserve to eat garlic,” he wrote. Some shortcuts just aren't worth it.
Brunch isn't a real meal
Brunch might be a good excuse to day drink with mimosas, but Bourdain would not have been impressed with avocado toast. “[Dedicated cooks] despise hollandaise, home fries, those pathetic fruit garnishes, and all the other cliché accompaniments designed to induce a credulous public into paying $12.95 for two eggs,” he wrote in The New Yorker. “You can dress brunch up with all the focaccia, smoked salmon, and caviar in the world, but it’s still breakfast.” Don't miss these 10 things chefs never, ever order at brunch.
No amount of restaurant food can replace home cooking
Not everyone will grow up to be a culinary genius like Bourdain, but he did wish young adults would stop relying on takeout and instant ramen. “I do think the idea that basic cooking skills are a virtue, that the ability to feed yourself and a few others with proficiency should be taught to every young man and woman as a fundamental skill, should become as vital to growing up as learning to wipe one’s own [butt], cross the street by oneself, or be trusted with money,” he wrote in Medium Raw.
It's not all about what's on your plate
Not only did Bourdain have a deep appreciation for good food (to say the least), but he also understood the power of sharing a meal. In Vietnam and Mexico, for instance, the amount of time it takes just to pull a meal together is a strong bonding experience in and of itself, he wrote in A Cook’s Tour. “Meals make the society, hold the fabric together in lots of ways that were charming and interesting and intoxicating to me,” he wrote. “The perfect meal, or the best meals, occur in a context that frequently has very little to do with the food itself.”
Keep it simple
There’s something exciting about tasting exotic ingredients or a creative take on classic dishes, but Bourdain never claimed that food needs to be complex be worth eating. “Good food is very often, even most often, simple food,” he wrote in Kitchen Confidential. Learn the 8 things celebrity chefs look for in a restaurant.
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And the fear was real: Over years of shooting culinary adventures on TV, Switzerland remained conspicuously missing from his travel checklist, even though he gladly shot in Lebanon, Senegal, and Trinidad.