The culinary and food media world has had a crushing 2018, given the loss of several of its heroes. Chefs, writers, bartenders and more have mourned in private, in public and on social media, as these luminaries have left us, leaving a legacy of many unforgettable lessons and delicious dishes.
Food lovers and travelers throughout the world have mourned as well. We relied on these figures for insightful intel on the most exquisite eats both at home and across the world.
From behind our newspapers, books, television screens and plates, these icons impact on food — and the humanity that fuels it — won’t be forgotten anytime soon.
Anthony Bourdain: writer, author, TV host and chef
Baffled, heartbroken and frozen. The death of Anthony Bourdain was a shocking blow that stopped many in their tracks. On Twitter, food writers were speechless. Many of us took a break from social media that weekend to try and process what happened.
From his best friend, Chef Eric Ripert, to his girlfriend, actress Asia Argento, to his family, and his fans across the globe, Bourdain touched the lives of so many people through his work and his outwardly humanistic approach.
Many of us were hooked after reading “Kitchen Confidential,” his raw account of a chef’s life in both its glory and rough edges. His TV shows allowed us to see a world beyond our own, as he ate with people and asked questions — never offensive, always to-the-point, always seeking a true connection.
Through this he connected with a world of viewers, many of whom felt they had lost a good friend when he passed away. His curiosity was a blessing for all of us.
Must read: Kitchen Confidential, Medium Raw
Jonathan Gold: restaurant critic, public personality
In July 2018, Gold was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and passed away on July 21. Gold was the voice of the Los Angeles food scene, famously driving his weathered truck through L.A.’s vast streets, seeking the best authentic eats. He sought to open his readers’ eyes to L.A.’s immense array of multi-cultural food, instead of only covering four-star restaurants. No taco truck or strip mall was too far for Gold to try.
City of Gold, a documentary released 2015, showed how he explored his love and passion for L.A. through the lens of food and different places. An upcoming tribute in Los Angeles will show previously unseen footage from the film.
Gold was the first restaurant critic to win a Pulitzer Prize. His words jump off the page, inviting the reader to a cozy seat at his table. Through his writing, he uplifted immigrant businesses and often helped them thrive. There are no words beautiful enough to honor the legacy of this brilliant wordsmith, who often fused his love of music and literature into his work.
Must read: Battle Burrito, L.A. vs. S.F., Pork in the Time of Swine Flu: Mexico City’s Pig Cuisine, Snout to Hoof, Best Bánh Mì: Buu Dien in Chinatown, Counter Intelligence: Where to Eat in the Real Los Angeles
Redefining gastronomy with chef Joël Robuchon
Known as one of the most influential and inventive French chefs, Robuchon held the most Michelin stars of any chef in the world. French restaurant guide Gault-Millau named him one of its ‘Chefs of the Century’ in 1989. If you’re a Bourdain fan, you’ve definitely heard him talk about Robuchon, who was known for honoring simplicity in his dishes, exemplified in his mashed potato purée.
His first Paris restaurant, Jamin, earned three Michelin stars three years after it opened. He later owned restaurants around the world, from New York to Shanghai, including multiple ateliers featuring counter seats where he hoped customers would interact with the chefs. The chef was also known for mentoring greats like Eric Ripert, Gordon Ramsay and Michael Caines.
Must read: “What Joel Robuchon Meant for French Cooking,” The New Yorker, 2018.
Paul Bocuse, chef
Paul Bocuse was the pope of Gastronomy and a household name in France. When he was on the rise in the ‘60s and ‘70s, he helped usher in nouvelle cuisine, a take on French cuisine that didn’t rely on heavy sauces, instead he focused on lighter fare and regional ingredients. In 1987 the charismatic chef founded Bocuse d’Or, an international cooking competition known as the ‘Olympics of food.’
His Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse is a mecca for the most exquisite ingredients, displayed beautifully to the delight of both locals and tourists. His culinary school, Institut Paul Bocuse, teaches gastronomy to the next generation of culinary artists. His flagship restaurant is the three-star L’Auberge du Pont de Collonges outside Lyon, also known as ‘Bocuse’ or ‘Paul Bocuse,’ has received three Michelin stars every year since 1965.
Must read: “The First Time I Met Paul Bocuse,” The New Yorker, 2018. ■