When Anthony Bourdain passed away in June 2018, the food world lost one of its greatest ever storytellers. Over the course of a career laden with award-winning shows, books and maverick cooking, Bourdain not only brought the fire and fury of a professional kitchen to the masses, but also opened our eyes to a world of flavour that we might otherwise have never known existed. Without him, food would feel a whole lot more mysterious.
It’s only right that a man who has helped shape how we all look at food should have a fitting tribute to his legacy. Over the course of his now legendary TV series’ “No Reservations” and “Parts Unknown”, Bourdain shone a light into the global culinary underbelly like no one else. Touching down everywhere from Madagascar to Iran, deciding where to pinpoint the location for a fitting monument is understandably difficult. However, for all his jet setting, it seems somehow perfect that the first physical Bourdain testimonial will be based in his home state of New Jersey.
Almost immediately after news of Bourdain’s tragic passing broke, New Jersey Assemblyman Paul Moriarty proposed a plan to ensure that he would never be forgotten in the state where he was born and raised. Using the 10 restaurants featured on Bourdain’s New Jersey visit in “Parts Unknown: Season Five” as a template, Moriarty mapped out a food trail for anyone wishing to walk in Bourdain’s footsteps. Now, what started out as a concept, is about to become reality.
The Daily Meal report that, in what was a unanimous decision, the New Jersey legislature voted to approve the creation of the Bourdain trail. As per the stops in Bourdain’s televised visit to the Garden State, the featured restaurants will be Dock’s Oyster House in Atlantic City; Donkey’s Place in Camden; Frank’s Deli in Asbury Park; Hiram’s Roadstand in Fort Lee; James’ Salt Water Taffy in Atlantic City; Knife and Fork in Atlantic City; Kubel’s in Barnegat Light; Lucille’s Country Cooking in Barnegat; Tony’s Baltimore Grill in Atlantic City; and Tony and Ruth Steaks in Camden. The route will be a must visit for anyone wanting a proper taste of New Jersey, Bourdain-style.
Speaking last year after the proposal had been announced, Moriarity made his commitment to honouring Bourdain’s memory abundantly clear. "There's no question that Anthony's road to fame was not an easy one," Moriarty said in June 2018. "Even after international fame, he never forgot his Jersey roots. Each episode, Bourdain brought his homegrown wit, charm, and sense of humanity to his viewers.” He went on to add, “(Bourdain) became a New Jersey food icon. It was heartbreaking for his fans and for those who knew him in Leonia to find out of his passing. A designated trail of his favourite dining spots is a fitting way to honour the memory of one of New Jersey’s best known chefs.”
Finding a fitting way to memorialise someone whose legacy will inevitably be immortalised by endless reruns and book sales can be a tricky thing to do. In a way, it sometimes seemed easier to emulate Bourdain by just getting in the kitchen and cooking something delicious. However, with the creation of the New Jersey trail, fans now have a concrete way to follow a man who loved nothing more than to travel hungry.