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Urbanists Could Learn a Lot From Anthony Bourdain

The work of the acclaimed chef and writer, who has died at 61, provides a model for a truly inclusive urbanism based on the creativity of all human beings.
Bourdain in 2001, when he was still the chef-owner of Les Halles in New York City.
Bourdain in 2001, when he was still the chef-owner of Les Halles in New York City. Jim Cooper/AP

Anthony Bourdain is one of the two people who have most inspired my work on cities and urbanism. Where Jane Jacobs helped define my intellectual agenda, it was Bourdain, who died on Friday morning at age 61, who motivated me to spread the message of cities and urbanism broadly.

A brilliant chef-turned-writer-turned-TV-star who was as good or better on camera as he was on the page, most people saw him as a chronicler of food and culture. But I always saw him as a chronicler of cities, and a truly great urbanist. He may not have seen himself that way—in recent years he ceased to refer to himself as a chef or a journalist, so single-minded was he as a traveler and epicurean—but it’s a central part of his work and legacy.