Anthony Bourdain, a man sits in an old armchair on a beach in promo image for 'Parts Unknown.'

Anthony Bourdain Already Had the Correct Take on Henry Kissinger

War criminal and scourge to humanity Henry Kissinger has died, which has elicited all kinds of reactions, including people fondly remembering how much celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain loathed Kissinger.

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Anthony Bourdain became well known after his book about the restaurant industry, Kitchen Confidential. He went on to become a household name by hosting several television shows where he toured the world, chatted with people, and ate good food. Bourdain was far from perfect, but he knew that and tried to grow. Although he left this world in 2018 at the age of 61, Bourdain left his mark. I still watch his shows regularly and think about how he would take certain world events that have occurred in the past few years. How would he react to Kissinger’s passing at the age of 100?

In the wake of Kissinger’s death, many news outlets are going with neutral, or even positive, headlines about the man. The guy who orchestrated secret bombings in Cambodia and other terrible crimes across the world while serving under multiple American presidents seems almost honored in the press. Headlines say Kissinger was “polarizing” and a “U.S. Diplomat.” In possibly the worst take, The Washington Post published an article with a headline reading: “The surprising dating life of Henry Kissinger, a West Wing ‘playboy.'”

Tell it like it is, Bourdain

Thankfully, we have Anthony Bourdain’s memorable thoughts on Kissinger to keep things real. In his memoir published in 2001, A Cook’s Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisines, Bourdain wrote:

“Once you’ve been to Cambodia, you’ll never stop wanting to beat Henry Kissinger to death with your bare hands. You will never again be able to open a newspaper and read about that treacherous, prevaricating, murderous scumbag sitting down for a nice chat with Charlie Rose or attending some black-tie affair for a new glossy magazine without choking. Witness what Henry did in Cambodia—the fruits of his genius for statesmanship—and you will never understand why he’s not sitting in the dock at The Hague next to [Serbia President Slobodan] Milošević.”

Early in 2018, Bourdain tweeted the quote, adding, “Frequently, I’ve come to regret things I’ve said. This, from 2001, is not one of those times.”

While being profiled by the New Yorker in 2017, writer Patrick Radden Keefe described Bourdain’s disbelief that people still served Kissinger in New York. Bourdain said, “Any journalist who has ever been polite to Henry Kissinger, you know, fuck that person. I’m a big believer in moral gray areas, but, when it comes to that guy, in my view he should not be able to eat at a restaurant in New York.” When Keefe said Bourdain has voiced strong negative opinions on people only to later share a meal with them, Bourdain replied, “Emeril didn’t bomb Cambodia!”

Kissinger’s “good works” around the world

On Bourdain’s show with CNN, Parts Unknown, he visited Indonesia. In 1975, Henry Kissinger authorized the invasion of East Timor by Indonesia’s military dictator, Suharto. The chain of events it caused led to about 200,000 lives lost. During the episode, Bourdain talked with several journalists from other countries who lived in Indonesia. They discussed the events of 1975 and the mass killings by Suharto and the militar,y labeled as an “anti-communist” purge, and the reluctance to bring up the topics. Bourdain commented on America’s culpability in all of it, specifically bringing up Kissinger.

Bourdain said, “Henry Kissinger and a penguin walk into a bar. I’m not asking what you’d do, but would it displease you if I walked over and punched Henry Kissinger in the face? Would you find that entertaining?” When one of the journalists commented on Bourdain’s dislike of Kissinger, Bourdain replied, “I fucking hate him, yeah. Because in my travels I’ve stumbled upon his good works everywhere I go.”

(featured image: CNN)

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D.R. Medlen
D.R. Medlen (she/her) is a pop culture staff writer at The Mary Sue. After finishing her BA in History, she finally pursued her lifelong dream of being a full-time writer in 2019. She expertly fangirls over Marvel, Star Wars, and historical fantasy novels (the spicier the better). When she's not writing or reading, she lives that hobbit-core life in California with her spouse, offspring, and animal familiars.