Nyesha Arrington Opens Up About Anthony Bourdain's Death And Legacy - Exclusive

While Anthony Bourdain sold copies of his hit "Kitchen Confidential," in 2005, one of them fell into the hands of 22-year-old Nyesha Arrington. On her Instagram, the "Top Chef" alum — who you'll soon watch alongside Gordon Ramsay and Gino D'Acampo in "Next Level Chef" — remembered the experience. "It was like the words couldn't jump off the page fast enough," Arrington wrote. "Your depiction of the culinary world were so vivid, I remember feeling like I had already lived through the culinary journey you wrote about." Back then, when Bourdain came into town to do a book signing, Arrington was too afraid to ask for a day off to see him. But a decade later, she finally met the man behind the bestselling book. During an exclusive interview with Mashed, Arrington reveals that she "had a conversation or two with [Bourdain], here and there over the years."  

"When Anthony passed, it was really gut wrenching to me," Arrington opened up to Mashed. "I remember we had an event that day and it was really hard for me to even function. It's so interesting how you can feel so connected to someone without really knowing them." Arrington and Bourdain were not close friends, but that makes Arrington's connection to him all the more extraordinary. Like he did for so many chefs and lovers of food globally, Bourdain ignited something for the up-and-coming culinary star. 

Why Nyesha Arrington calls Anthony Bourdain 'so much more than just a food person'

Nyesha Arrington doesn't think strictly of food when she remembers the chef and TV host. "I think he was so much more than just a food person," Arrington reflected. "Just him as a personality, how he processed information, how he articulated information ... he was so rock and roll." She also noted that he was "kind of anti-establishment in terms of food media."

For Arrington, the "global citizen vibe" that Bourdain brought to the food world is something she particularly relates to. Arrington travels avidly. From the Virgin Islands where she had one of her first jobs as a chef, to Belize where she traveled with the sponsorship of the country's tourism board (via Chefs Feed), to Morocco where she is hosting a culinary adventure (via Modern Adventure) — it's easy to draw parallels between their culinary travel lust. "Who he has become in the food world in terms of a lens to a global perspective... [is] just beautiful," Arrington said. She feels an affinity to Bourdain, because, as she explained, "I cook food that I'm inspired by, I don't say that my food is any one style because ... I think, it's the cooking shows that made people say, oh, 'I'm this ethnicity, so I can only cook this food.'" Appropriation, Arrington is quick to clarify, "is a completely different conversation." But as Bourdain taught her, "You can have different schools of thought, everyone doesn't need to be in the same kind of bubble."

To hear more from Nyesha Arrington, tune into her daily podcast, "Happy Mouth," that she co-hosts with Philip Camino. On "Happy Mouth" you'll get timely national hospitality/restaurant industry news to start each day informed and inspired.