When Anthony Bourdain passed away this summer, I was noticeably impacted by his death. While I’ve always considered myself a foodie, that wasn’t the main reason I watched Bourdain’s shows. Bourdain was someone who preached a strong support for diversity, not just in the food industry but in the cultural makeup of our society. His ideas resonated with me. Cooking was his platform; his message was much greater than that. He influenced me in countless ways – but there are three main lessons that have stuck with me.
“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.”
I was recently presented with the opportunity to open a GALE office in Singapore. I would be moving myself and my family to the other side of the world – that meant new schools for my young children, plus a new language and city to navigate. It was not a decision I took lightly, but I was passionate about my career growth and the myriad of possibilities before me. Something I’d heard Bourdain say was in the back of my mind, telling me to move, telling me that “travel changes you”. It encouraged me to take the risk, and the moment I stepped off the plane I knew I’d made the right choice. Singapore is a shining example of how diversity can empower a country. If I didn’t get up and move, I may have never been able to experience this place first hand or have gained the professional insight this journey keeps presenting to me.
“Male, female, gay, straight, legal, illegal, country of origin—who cares? You can either cook an omelet or you can’t. The restaurant kitchen may indeed be the last, glorious meritocracy—where anybody with the skills and the heart is welcomed.”
I have always been impressed by how Bourdain could disarm you and teach you such powerful lessons through food. Every episode of “Parts Unknown” presented me with a different way of viewing food, life and the world. One that really stands out took place in Houston, Texas in the final season. Bourdain stressed that diversity isn’t just a progressive plus, it is critical. Having different views in one place provides perspective to everyone, even in a place like Texas where so many assume it is the opposite. When you hire someone with a different background into your kitchen (or office) you immediately gain new ways of processing information. Bourdain is quick to show how this directly improves the way you serve different communities or clients.
Internally at GALE, diversity has helped us grow a strong team and succeed in some of the most competitive landscapes. Globally, GALE has over 280 people after only 4.5 years. While we aim to make each office space look the same, the people inside could not be more different. From the languages we speak (25+) to the ever-raging war of pineapple on pizza (64% in favor), to our skillsets, diversity drives our teams. With all these differences, it could be easy for a space to fall into chaos, but instead we celebrate it, just like Bourdain.
“Skills can be taught. Character you either have or you don’t have.”
A champion of inclusion and diversity, Bourdain used something we all have in common – food – to show us how to be better. With every corner of the world he took us to, he strived to show the humanity in every culture. He demanded we ask the question – “what good will you leave behind?” That is something I want to take with me wherever I go – to leave an impact on the people I work with, on the community I build within my workplace.
Opening a GALE office in Singapore was an amazing opportunity, one that has allowed me to champion everything Bourdain taught me. His influence helped get me here, and his lessons in diversity and inclusion will impact the way the office grows. Bourdain’s legacy inspires me to leave one of my own. I hope that what we’re doing here in Singapore is just that.
Managing Director, International