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Five Social Media Lessons From Anthony Bourdain

By: Guest | December 29, 2011 | 
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Today’s guest post is written by Craig McBreen.

What can a snarky, middle-aged, New Yorker teach a 40-something, wannabe blogger about life?

Well, I often find inspiration in the strangest places and politically incorrect, sharp-tongued, bad boy chefs dole out the best advice. You knew that, right?

I’m an unabashed fan of Mr. Bourdain’s work and simply love his sardonic wit, candid observations, and appreciate his creative chops. Emeril Lagasse, Paula Dean, and Rachael Ray might beg to differ.

He often has too many drinks on camera, openly mocks other celebrities (see above), and has a disdain for all things vegan. Even though his contempt is generally a bit tongue in cheek, it’s certainly fun and part of his charm.

I mean, we all know the most dangerous person to America is clearly not Paula Deen, right?

He sometimes mentions a past filled with drugs and serious issues with authority. So, we’re not talking about Tony Robbins here, but I say smarts, snark, and honesty go a long way.

In 1997, his exposé of New York City restaurants titled Don’t Eat Before Reading This appeared in the New Yorker (article is archived behind the paywall). Shortly after, the incredibly successful Kitchen Confidential was published. So after 20 plus years in the kitchen, he was a best-selling author and soon had his own show on the Food Network.

The Travel Channel is his current home, with two shows, including the award-winning, No Reservations. He’s a sought-after speaker and manages to crank out book after book, but didn’t reach this level of success until later.

As a young guy, he rarely traveled, admits he was not a star chef, and often struggled with drugs and alcohol, but his life changed dramatically; even though he might deny it, he is a celebrity.

So, what did Anthony Bourdain teach me about social media?

  1. It’s never too late. I write about this ad nauseum, but it’s true and what better example than Mr. Bourdain. At 44 years of age, he was a chef at New York’s Les Halles, in debt and working 12 hour days. But he wrote. And this is when Kitchen Confidential led to his extraordinary trajectory, which hasn’t slowed down one bit. Kitchen Confidential and A Cook’s Tour exploded on the scene when he was in his 40s. He’s now one of the world’s most famous chefs and sits comfortably on his Travel Channel properties at the age of 55.
  2. Sometimes you don’t choose a passion, it finds you. As a chef, he always devoted time to writing. That is what changed his life. He didn’t exactly stumble upon writing, but he sure discovered something he did brilliantly. He didn’t know The New Yorker article would blow up. He simply wrote a great piece based on years of experience and then some magic happened.
  3. Don’t take yourself too seriously. A bit of levity is good medicine for the soul, don’t you think? Here’s a guy who has reached a certain level of success, but never takes himself too seriously. Sure, he often pokes fun at celebrities and his favorite targets at The Food Network, but it’s all in good fun, really. He’s even written that it would be “entirely fair and appropriate” were he described as “a loud, egotistical, one-note a**hole who’s been cruising on the reputation of one obnoxious, over-testosteroned book for way too long and who should just shut the f*ck up.” Need I say more?
  4. Be yourself. He likes dive bars, street food, and misses the seediness of old New York. He freely talks about his past missteps, has a strong point of view, and can be over the top at times, but that’s all part of the appeal. And he doesn’t care what you think. Many can relate to the caustic and darkly humorous side, but he’s also extremely creative. The flaws, vulnerability, and honesty are traits that resonate with me. If you plan to become great at something, isn’t embracing your distinctiveness and applying some imagination a huge help? He’s done that in spades.
  5. Be open to new experiences. We don’t all have the luxury of globetrotting on the Travel Channel’s dime, but here’s a guy who graciously ate a dirt covered omelet cooked by a Namibian tribesman, took psychedelic Ayahuasca, and famously ate a beating cobra heart; not to mention he’s a New York City liberal who broke bread with Ted Nugent. In fact, he calls him “Uncle Ted.”

Sure Tony Bourdain is offensive to some, or maybe he’s just misunderstood. I don’t know, but this is a guy with a fondness for pork, is a long-time Ramones fan, and possesses a beautifully acerbic wit. What’s not to love? Like I said, inspiration is sometimes found in the strangest places.

Craig McBreen owns and operates McBreen Design, but you can also find him at craigmcbreen.com. A rookie blogger and student of social media, Craig is originally from Baltimore, but now lives in Seattle, with his wife and two kids.

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