An Open Letter To All Young And Aspiring Chefs In The Light Of Anthony Bourdain's Death

Ranveer Brar , 29 Jun 2018
Ranveer Brar, Fellow Chef And Comrade
Ranveer Brar, Fellow Chef And Comrade

One can never really know the motivation behind a human being taking his/her own life. We’re only left with a deep sadness and many unanswered questions. Could we have helped? Why didn’t we see it? Did they try to reach out? Anthony Bourdain‘s recent suicide did all this and more to me; it made me go into a shell and lock myself in a room for three days. I cut myself off from the world and sat there alone, with my own thoughts, pondering over the various explanations and the futility of it all.

Ranveer Brar
Ranveer Brar

India is still a maturing market in regards to food and things related to it. Yet you can already smell the making of a mammoth phenomenon. Today, chefs are like celebrities. The same can be said about the food bloggers, top restaurant owners and all other influencers. They are becoming more and more known to the common man. All of this, over the past decade, has shown how big food and all in its spectrum can get. And this is not even the tip of the iceberg! That being said, everything has a price. Fame is one of them as the human mind does not know when to rest or when to stop. It is a natural human tendency, wherein the will to win takes over everything we do. I have taken more than 300 flights in the last one and half years. I’ve faced the camera more than I have faced the mirror and yet, I haven’t even started on the road that Anthony had walked for a long time.

Ranveer Brar
Ranveer Brar

At the end of the day, we are all artists when we face the camera and our job is to excite, intrigue, explain and entertain. As fun as it sounds, it actually isn’t always the case, because first and foremost, television is a business. Shoots are expensive which means, just because you have a high fever or you are going through something in your life, the show will never stop going on. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the people in the television business, the people are great! Showbiz is a beast! You have to occupy and entertain 1.25 billion people and that is a mammoth task. All said and done, I haven’t done even a small percentage of work that Tony has. However, I know that with every passing day, there is a tussle between the chef and the celebrity, the artist and the businessman, the go with the flow guy and the meticulous planner. This is basically where it starts getting serious.

Ranveer Brar
Ranveer Brar

When I go to catering colleges and ask students about what they want to become, my apprehensions double up when their response is to become a celebrity chef. This is worrisome because it looks like you start to realise that the next generation just wants to get to the end, before really even embarking on their journey.

Ranveer Brar
Ranveer Brar

I say this at the cost of sounding old school, but you know something is wrong when the only thing that can decide if you’re a good chef, is your social media following. I am an optimist all along but I am definitely worried. I’m worried about the next generation of chefs because now there are a lot of us out there. Imagine if everyone just wanted to just be a celebrity chef and nothing else. They do not understand the pressure and every other aspect of this journey.

Ranveer Brar
Ranveer Brar

It gives me goosebumps to think that there are millions of next-generation chefs, who can help make great food, choose the alternative to keep running on the treadmill, only to realise one day that it’s over. It is a high-pressure game and believes me, you need to have lived life and lost a few times in order to be ready for the kind of pressure you’re going to face. Every time I think that I’m well prepared because of the time when I was jobless and homeless in Boston, I still end up getting stomped. That’s the nature of it in a maturing country where the so-called celebrity in you is bound to challenge the chef in you. This will give you sleepless nights filled with pressure and stress.

Ranveer Brar
Ranveer Brar

It’s essential to remind ourselves why we started this in the first place. We started this for the love of it and that a peaceful mind, at the end of the day, is more important than any status symbol that your young, impressionable and naive mind may aim to acquire. This letter is for all the young chefs out there because, at the end of the day, when you’re 62 and a celebrity chef of some stature, the only thing that will keep you going is the number of years of cooking you have behind you. Also, the sacred relationship with food that you have built over the years is just as important. I urge you to spend these years well. Work hard and prepare for it because when it does come, it’s going to hit you hard. Anthony is gone and has left behind a big void and an even bigger lesson for us all. This is important for the next generation of chefs in India to remember. Take the time and listen.

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