For those of us that were fans, I think his legacy goes far beyond Kitchen Confidential, a book that I enjoyed quite a bit. His earlier works in Cooks Tour and No Reservations could focus on his bad-boy reputation and ultra-cool persona at the expense of capturing the spirit of a culture and country. There were many times that I enjoyed his work but didn’t particularly like him as a person.
His later works showed a deep respect and voracious curiosity about the spirit of a people and a place. His Parts Unknown episode in Laos captured the true beauty and magic of the place while ripping the viewers’ hearts apart with his gripping reporting of the legacy of the U.S. bombing campaign and the treacherous perils of the unexploded bombs still remaining. His bawdy, raucous episode in Beirut brought the realities of war into our homes as he and the crew became unable to leave the country for several days because the war had started and we all witnessed the terror and grief of the Lebanese people in a way that we couldn’t have from the nightly newscast. And his sharing noodles and beer with Obama in Viet Nam was pretty epic. He was far from perfect, but did enrich our understanding of and respect for culture and the role that food plays in bringing people together.