“He taught us about food – but more importantly about its ability to bring us together. To make us a little less afraid of the unknown.”

Powerful words – from a fellow named Barack Obama in describing the brilliant intellect and candor of Anthony Bourdain. Bourdain traveled an extraordinary road, evolving from celebrity chef to intrepid travel writer to journalist, and ultimately a most unlikely social anthropologist.

His storytelling through culinary adventure was frank, often uncompromising and filled with heart and appreciation for the global cultures and customs he investigated.

Anthony Bourdain: The Last Interview and Other Conversations is the latest entry in Melville House’s “Last Interview” series.

Bourdain always downplayed his skills as a chef. But despite his modesty, he acknowledged that he was a born raconteur – made clear in this collection of conversations. His wit, passion, and intelligence come through, whether in a heart-to-heart conversation with a blogger, an on-stage talk before a large crowd, or an intense interview with a news anchor.

Without fail, he is honest and insightful, such as when discussing his battles with addiction or his feeling about restaurant critics, or the politics and history revealed by what’s on your plate.

In her introduction to the book, New Yorker food correspondent Helen Rosner writes how Bourdain’s memoir, Kitchen Confidential, “changed everything – for restaurant-goers and for writers and most powerfully for cooks, who were in a single instant, as if from on high, delivered a spokesman, a champion, and poet laureate.”

She says, “Most celebrities in the culinary world fit one category or another: you can loosely bundle together your domestic goddesses, your reality TV judges, your globetrotting trend seekers, your toffee-nosed haute cuisine auteurs, all of them individually distinct but speaking, culturally, at comparable pitch and volume. Bourdain defied category, which means he defies replacement.”

“There’s no other ex-line-cook memoirist, who’s also an advocate for culinary justice, who also makes the best goddamn show on television, who also has the ear of global leaders, who also reads a hundred books a year and knows every film ever made, and has the irresistible charisma of a black hole, and writes like a burning knife, and wears his anger and his sadness outside, right next to his delight.”

Anthony Bourdain: The Last Interview and Other Conversations is available for purchase.