While speaking about his culinary explorations around the world in “A Cook’s Tour: In Search of the Perfect Meal,” published after his death in 2018, Bourdain said that “you’ll never stop wanting to beat Henry Kissinger to death with your bare hands” after visiting Cambodia, referring to one of Kissinger’s most heinous acts, the approval of a secret war beyond the borders of Vietnam. It was one of many actions he promoted during his eight years as secretary of state under former Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford that are now considered shameful chapters in U.S. foreign affairs.
In 1969, Kissinger ordered the clandestine carpet-bombing of Cambodia and Laos. For four years, the U.S. dropped 540,000 bombs, slaughtering 150,000 to 500,000 Cambodian civilians.
“You will never again be able to open a newspaper and read about that treacherous, prevaricating, murderous scumbag sitting down for a nice chat with Charlie Rose or attending some black-tie affair for a new glossy magazine without choking,” Bourdain wrote in his book.
“Witness what Henry did in Cambodia ― the fruits of his genius for statesmanship ― and you will never understand why he’s not sitting in the dock at The Hague next to [Serbian President Slobodan] Milošević.”
Decades after the book’s release, Bourdain’s comments lingered in people’s minds and even made a comeback online following news of Kissinger’s death on Wednesday.
This wasn’t the first dig the chef had taken at Kissinger. In a 2017 New Yorker profile on Bourdain, his publisher, Dan Halpern, lauded the influence he had with “Parts Unknown,” a travel and food show in which Bourdain traveled around the world and discussed the cuisines, cultures and political issues of various countries.
Halpern said that Bourdain had “become a statesman” as his show made people aware of conflicts in other countries.
But Bourdain pushed back on the notion, saying, “I’m not going to the White House Correspondents’ dinner. I don’t need to be laughing it up with Henry Kissinger.”
Despite being responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, Kissinger had been seen having amicable exchanges with notable figures, including former President George W. Bush, Nixon, Oprah Winfrey and Princess Diana.
“Any journalist who has ever been polite to Henry Kissinger, you know, fuck that person,” Bourdain said. “I’m a big believer in moral gray areas, but, when it comes to that guy, in my view he should not be able to eat at a restaurant in New York.”