I guess I needed the weekend to put my thoughts on the death of Anthony Bourdain into some sort or perspective. I’m saddened like many others. I saw the prayers, and notes of remembrance, the funny and poignant anecdotes by those who knew him well. Though he possessed the kind of personality that made all of us think we knew him in one way or another.
It was also nice hearing from people who knew me and checked in with me to see how I was reacting to the news. And, I imagine seeing if there was any glimmer of sentiment that I might be considering killing my self as well. A few even came right out with the question. I liked that they weren’t shy or restricted by the taboo. But this note isn’t about me.
Tony’s been referred to in these memorials as a rebel, a bad boy, a pirate captain, a celebrated culinarian, and other adjectives trying to describe one of the most complex people we’ve ever known or met. I was one of the lucky who had a chance to interact with him, even briefly. We shared a smoke (cigarettes) in the garden at the KARE 11 studios. He was in town promoting his mystery novels (there are three, look them up!) and I was there to cook something with the host of the morning show. Something I was doing for a while about 15 years back. We chatted about restaurants, of course, but the one thing I remember about that morning is that he seemed a lot quieter than he did on camera, almost shy. Though I had told him my name, when they called him in for his segment he shook my hand and said, “have a good show Chef”
Looking back at his work in letters and television I can see the honest curiosity he had about people and the food they ate and the beverages they drank. But underneath it all I could see he never looked at it from a point above the people. He made us feel like he was one of us, just a guy trying to make it through this world one bite or one glass at a time. Though he obviously had a talent for writing and publicly presenting himself to us, on that day in the garden during our talk and when he said goodbye, I saw he was just a guy who thought of himself nothing more than a cook.