If F. Scott Fitzgerald once said that there were no second acts in American lives, then surely Anthony Bourdain’s storied life has disproved this. Bourdain’s career took off rather late in life – he would publish Kitchen Confidential, the book that set him on the path to fame, at age 44 and his travel shows only commenced from then on. That he had been given this fantastic second chance was not lost on Bourdain and he embraced it, living deeply and sucking on the marrow of life with relish.
To hear word of his suicide, then, is shocking and sad. We’d come to see him not just as a mere TV presenter but also a beacon of hope for those of us looking forward to our own second acts. In the meantime, we would do so in front of the screen, living vicariously through his many travels abroad, envying his bravado, and his frank, acerbic voice.
News of his death arrived just as we were putting the finishing touches to our travel issue and a tribute to him is almost certainly necessary. Perhaps, though, a more fitting send-off would be for us to heed some his advice: “If I’m an advocate for anything, it’s to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. The extent to which you can walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food, it’s a plus for everybody. Open your mind, get up off the couch, move.”
Or else, contribute – Bourdain’s pioneering TV work sees his programmes going beyond food, evolving into socio-political commentaries and explorations of how people live around the world. Also, stay curious: “Without experimentation, a willingness to ask questions and try new things, we shall surely become static, repetitive, and moribund.”
These are sentiments also shared by Dato’ Teo Chiang Quan, whose long-standing contributions to Paramount Group not only include property development but also an early, groundbreaking foray into education with the KDU brand. In a rare interview, the soft-spoken yet incisive Dato’ Teo talks about seeing beyond what is good for business. “Whenever I say that we’re in these two businesses and that they both involve nation-building, people sometimes laugh at me and ask, ‘Are you sure you can do nationbuilding?’ But that’s exactly what it is – we simply have a softer way of saying it.”
Dato’ Teo also talks about the importance of being brave, either in doing something we’ve never done before but also in being able to go against the grain, mirroring Bourdain’s words with a simple, pointed statement: “You should not be afraid to be the exception.” Words to live by, whichever act you find yourself in the movie of your life.