From the time I was 16, into my early 30s, I worked off and on in the restaurant industry. These jobs included an original drive-in joint in Virginia, a Bulgarian 3-star place that attracted political celebrities trying to escape Washington, and a few national casual dining chains.
I loved working in the dish pit. It was fun in college to put my headphones on, listen to Rancid, and skitter back and forth from washing dishes to seating guests.
During this time, I've seen the best, and worst of humanity. In case you're wondering, Waffle House is usually safe to eat at, and if the cook appears to be stoned, chances are good your $5 meal after last call is going to be outstanding.
The service industry isn't for the faint of heart. Like it or not, drug abuse, sexual harassment, and all sorts of awful things go on behind that $25 plate of blackened shrimp Landry's is selling you that was farmed in Indonesia - despite the "Gulf Seafood" tag.
If you can work in the industry and come out with minimal damage, you did great. Most people don't.
I've seen people working off the clock due to management pressure. I've seen chefs violently drunk and high on pills, racism, sexual assault. What Bourdain described in "Kitchen Confidential" was just the tip of the industry iceberg.
Anthony Bourdain was the guy on TV who reminded us that we are more alike than the clickbait media wants you to believe, and that food brings us together. He was the counter to our hyper-partisan political environment, hanging out with Ted Nugent, and President Obama.
Tony came to Louisiana multiple times, and he loved it here. For all of our faults, he loved our cooking and the one remaining Popeye's buffet in the country. He wasn't an elitist chef, he was one of us.
Anthony Bourdain loved and understood Louisiana better than anyone not from here possibly could. He got us.— Lamar White, Jr. (@LamarWhiteJr) June 8, 2018
Here he was in Mardi Gras in Mamou this year, where he dressed up in a costume to chase a chicken for a gumbo. And yes, this was all perfectly sensible. pic.twitter.com/8MdBtyvKa6
He struggled with addiction and depression, and it finally became too much for him. I'm not going to judge him for his decision to end his life. Until you walk a mile in his kitchen clogs, you have no idea what that business will do to you.
His punk rock sneer and working-class mentality will live on. Tony ignored class systems, he stuck up for the little guy.
I hope he found his peace, and I have nothing but the utmost empathy for his family. I'll miss him more than he could have ever imagined. With his death, a part of me has died as well.