But the celebrity chef and host of CNN’s Parts Unknown was hesitant to give himself too much credit when The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah brought up the “painful” issue during their interview Wednesday night.
“I came out of a brutal, oppressive business that was historically unfriendly to women,” Bourdain said, speaking about the restaurant industry, which has been rocked by its own sexual-misconduct scandals in recent months. “I knew a lot of women, it turned out, who had stories about their experiences—about people I knew—who did not feel I was the sort of person they could confide in.”
It was only because of his relationship with Argento that women began opening up to him about those experiences. “I started speaking about it out of a sense of real rage,” he explained. “I’d like to say that I was only enlightened in some way or I’m an activist or virtuous, but in fact, I have to be honest with myself. I met one extraordinary woman with an extraordinary and painful story, who introduced me to a lot of other women with extraordinary stories and suddenly it was personal.”
“To the extent that I ever woke up, that certainly had an effect,” he added. “So I think, like a lot of men, I’m reexamining my life,” Bourdain said, noting that he wrote what he now thinks of as “the meathead bible for restaurant employees and chefs” in his breakthrough memoir, Kitchen Confidential. “I look back, like hopefully a lot of men in that industry and think — not necessarily ‘what did I do or not do?’ — but ‘what did I see and what did I let slide? What did I not notice?’”
Among the chefs accused of sexual misconduct in recent weeks was Mario Batali, a man who Bourdain considered, and may still consider, a friend.
“Look, no matter how much I admire someone or respected their work,” he told Noah, “I’m pretty much Ming the Merciless on this issue right now. I’m not in a forgiving state of mind. I mean, that shit ain’t OK.”