Anthony Bourdain’s Business Model: Don’t Give a F*ck

March 14, 2016

6:21 pm

Anthony Bourdain says that he jokes that not giving a fuck has been a good business model for him, but more often than not it has turned out to be true. He says he wrote his first book, Kitchen Confidential, under the assumption that no one would ever read it, so he did not worry at all what other people might think. He aired all his dirty laundry and didn't care who he might offend or piss off – and it was a massive success.

Bourdain has since written several successful books and is most known for his popular travel/food shows No Reservations and Parts Unknown. On Sunday at SXSW, he was interviewed by Nathan Thornburgh, Chief Editor and Publisher of new media startup Roads & Kingdoms, of which Bourdain is an investor.  The two touched on the many aspects of Bourdain's career, the path that led him to his current career, types of stories he seeks out, and how his unwillingness to pander to others has led to his success.

“I've never had a reputation to lose.”

Remarking on his ability to fearlessly do whatever he wants , Bourdain talks about how Kitchen Confidential basically made him untouchable as far as reputation damage.

“I moved from 44 year old fry cook basically to whatever the hell it is I do now, pretty much overnight, on the basis of a memoir where I pretty much fessed up to everything. I'm an open book. I've never had a reputation to lose, which is a huge advantage. I mean it's an enormously liberating thing when everybody knows all the nasty shit about you already. Nobody can hurt you. You're free to say what you want.”

Don't call Bourdain a journalist.

Thornburgh, who is very much a journalist, asked Bourdain if he would label himself similarly. Bourdain admitted to the highly manipulative nature of his show, and TV in general, and said that he does not consider himself a journalist because he creates every episode of Parts Unknown from his own point of view and imparts his opinions and feelings.

“Enthusiast sounds good to me. I like essayist, I mean, if I were really full of myself. But that's about it. I mean I have a point of view and I'm very aware that maybe television is a manipulative process. You know, there's no question about it, I wanted people to feel a certain way watching these shows.”

Bourdain just wants to make “good things” and doesn't care if they're successful or not.

“When you try to do honest, powerful, albeit confusing stories, there are going to be people there. Maybe not as much as if we did an all barbecue website, but, you know. I like making good things. Whether  they're spectacularly successful or not, I really don't care.”

Bourdain is one of the lucky few who gets to do what he loves, do it for himself and the crew that works with him, and not give any thought to public opinion. He has done this for years and managed to come out on top. Luck has definitely played a role, and I don't think he would deny it, but he is a great role model for staying true to yourself.


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Kristin is an aspiring entrepreneur who is enthusiastically navigating her way through the DC startup space. She has an unending passion for learning and is never satisfied with the status quo. During the day she is an ops, biz dev, and marketing maven for Fission Strategy