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Lessons in frugality from the food media star and travel legend
According to his first-hand account recently published by Wealth Simple, Bourdain only found financial prosperity once he’d reached the tender age of 44 and with the release of a little book, his third, called Kitchen Confidential.
Before finding success, Bourdain was constantly in debt, always behind on his rent and didn’t even have a savings account to his name. Raised in a middle class home in New Jersey, Bourdain grew up comfortable, but as he puts it, “My parents were not good with money. My father was a dreamer who didn’t seem to think or talk about financial things. My mother was far more organized, but I think her aspirations outpaced her ability to pay.”
Bourdain dropped out of the private high school he attended to help reduce the financial burden his parents were facing as his older brother entered college and, after attending cooking school, began his full-time career in the kitchen. When he began, he was working five to six days a week, up to 12 hours a day and barely taking home $120 after taxes.
The big change occurred, of course, after the success of Kitchen Confidential. However, even after the book was beginning to build its lore, Bourdain stayed on as the chef at Les Halles in fear of not having a source of steady income. Luckily, the follow-up book he pitched, A Cook’s Tour: In Search of the Perfect Meal, got turned into a tv show and the rest, as they say, is history.
With his second Emmy-award winning television show, his own publishing imprint within Harper-Collins, Ecco, books, tours, and brand partnerships, times are good for Bourdain. Yet, his financial aspirations are still rooted in the part of his life that he holds most dearly, his family.
“I’d like my daughter and her mom looked after, both while I’m alive and after. They shouldn’t have to worry if something bad happens, so my investments and savings are based on that. I’m super-conservative. Money doesn’t particularly excite or thrill me; the making of money gives me no particular satisfaction. To me, money is freedom from insecurity, freedom to move, time if you choose to make use of time. My investments advisor understands that I’m not looking to score big on the stock market or bonds. I have zero understanding of it and zero interest. Life is too short. I like a limited amount of mail, and a limited amount of conversations with people who make the investments. If the money’s not less money every time I look at it, I’m pretty happy. If it’s a little bit more, great.”