Anthony Bourdain: How can an average chef become famous?

How does a chef with average cooking skills become world famous? Thats what Anthony Bourdain shows us.

While attending college, Bourdain started working at nearby seafood restaurants to earn some money. Which made him realize his love for food. He dropped out of college and enrolled at the culinary school of America. And for the next 20 years, he worked in various restaurants as a chef.

In 1998, after 20 years of being a line cook and a sous chef, he finally became an executive chef at Brasseria Les Halles – a restaurant that served simple classic French dishes. Given 20 more years, maybe he would have risen and become a chef at a more high end restaurant. But by no means was Anthony Bourdain a celebrity chef.

Earning fame beyond your skills

While not gifted with skill, Bourdain loved food and the culture and history behind it. He was driven by making sure no one got to eat bad food. And so, one day he wrote an exposé on the restaurant business: “Don’t eat before reading this.”

He pulled the curtain on what goes on inside the restaurant kitchen. Why you shouldn’t order fish on a Monday night (because restaurants order fish on Thursday before the weekend rush, by Monday it’s stale) or the secret behind restaurant food tasting so good is because a stick of butter is used in every meal!

Bourdain’s mother was an editor at New York Times, and Bourdain had got his love of writing from her. He wrote as a hobby and even took a couple of writing classes in his spare time. He had written a couple of fiction books as well, which hadn’t sold well. But this article changed his life.

Because it led to a book contract. A contract that gave him an advance of $50,000 to write a book! At the age of 43, Bourdain was finally out of debt!

The book “Kitchen Confidential” sold so well, that Bourdain got a TV show out of it! He could travel all around the world and critic the local food. And thats how, he became a famous celebrity chef!

The Bourdain playbook

Neil deGrasse Tyson is one of the most famous scientists today. He too became uber famous by following Anthony Bourdain’s footsteps. By exposing flaws in movies. He would write on Twitter whether scenes in movies like Star Wars or Gravity were scientifically accurate. And these tweets went viral – making him famous amongst the masses!

As Edith Wharton says: “There are two ways of spreading the light: to be the candle, or the mirror that reflects it.” Writing exposés about your topic is a great way to become famous. 

People are curious. Pull back the curtain and show them the secrets of your field, and they will lap it up!

The downsides of being a critic

A critic will make enemies. When you find and expose flaws in your industry, you are bound to make a few people hate you. 

But what has to show up is your love for your field. 

You can be a critic because you are good at finding flaws. Or you can be a critic because you love your industry and want to champion your industry to become better. One critic comes from the point of negativity while the other comes from a place of positivity. People can see the difference between the two types of criticisms in your passion and presentation. 

People in the restaurant industry loved Bourdain because his love for food and culture dripped out from him – it was obvious that he cared about good food!

Action Summary:

  • Help the masses by taking them behind the curtains and helping them make better decisions. Show them the bad practices to avoid. It’s a great way to become famous in your niche.
  • Be at the intersection of two fields. Bourdain was neither a great chef nor an awesome writer. But he was the best writer that a chef could be.