Anthony Bourdain Walked Into A Bar

My Bar, My Coffee Bar

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 My friend Margaret called to ask if I would be at the shop until 3:00. “I’m teaching a creative writing class, she said; I’d like to introduce you to my guest speaker.”

“Who is this speaker, I asked?”

“You’ll see, was her reply with a little background laugh.” Margaret is a creative writing professor at Yale, a gifted teacher, and artist, so I was intrigued.

The coffeehouse was bustling that day, and all the daily specials were gone by two that afternoon. As a result I had very little to offer Margaret and her guest. So I decided on something simple, a tuna salad with capers, mayonnaise, finely chopped red onions, garden tomatoes, and assorted baby lettuce piled high on thick sliced sourdough bread. Hopefully, her guest liked tuna.

Margaret walked in alone. “Come outside and meet my guest, she directed after placing her order.” I followed her outside.

She sat next to her guest; I sat across from him. She didn’t introduce him. I kept staring at him, thinking he looks so familiar. A tall, ruggedly handsome man who seemed a little ill at ease. Margaret kept smiling, waiting for me to recognize him. Then, it hit me.

“Wait a minute, I said, you’re Anthony Bourdain, he smiled. I should have recognized you immediately; your face is on my bedside table. With that, he laughs out loud.”

. . .

His book Kitchen Confidential just launched, but I was already a fan. Here are some interesting Anthony-isms:

>His futuristic comic book about warring chefs slaughtering each other in the streets rose to the top spot in the NY Times bestseller list.

>His love affair with food began during a family trip to the South of France. While there, he tasted fresh oysters for the first time. He said they tasted of the seawater and brine. “I don’t understand why, but swallowing fresh oysters felt like the future.”

>I’ve read that when asked what was the most disgusting thing he’s ever eaten, he answered, “a Chicken McNugget.”

. . .

“We are, after all, citizens of the world — a world filled with bacteria, some friendly, some not so friendly. Do we really want to travel in hermetically sealed popemobiles through the rural provinces of France, Mexico, and the Far East, eating only in Hard Rock Cafes and McDonald’s? Or do we want to eat without fear, tearing into the local stew, the humble taqueria’s mystery meat, the sincerely offered gift of a lightly grilled fish head? I know what I want. I want it all. I want to try everything once. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt, Senor Tamale Stand Owner, Sushi-chef-san, Monsieur Bucket-head. What’s that feathered game bird, hanging on the porch, getting riper by the day, the body nearly ready to drop off? I want some.”
? Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly

He sat listening as we talked, appearing weary. He entered the conversation only when Margaret began telling him about my coffeehouse and the community that gathered here each day. His only remark was, “I don’t understand this whole high-end coffee shop phenomenon. Coffee is coffee.” I didn’t’ feel the need to discuss that it is more about gathering as a community and neighborliness. Coffee is a delicious vehicle to start a great conversation. Customers used to say, “Lu, this is a salon with a business wrapped around it.”

There were so many things I loved about Anthony Bourdain.

1. I loved the way he praised his line cooks and kitchen crew, letting diners know how hard they worked, sometimes in relentless 110-degree heat in the bowels of the kitchen, undervalued and underpaid.

2. I loved how he sat with people from other countries as comfortably as if they were his family — listening to their stories, and eating whatever food they prepared.

3. I loved when he would charge into the political belly of the beast to speak the truth as he saw it and lived it in an area most people would avoid.

In an assessment of Bourdain’s life for The Nation, David Klion wrote that, “Bourdain understood that the point of journalism is, to tell the truth, to challenge the powerful, to expose wrongdoing. But his unique gift was to make doing all that look fun rather than grim or tedious.” According to Klion, Bourdain’s shows “made it possible to believe that social justice and earthly delights weren’t mutually exclusive. He pursued both with the same earnest reverence.”[147]

“I frequently look back at my life, searching for that fork in the road, trying to figure out where, exactly, I went bad and became a thrill-seeking, pleasure-hungry sensualist, always looking to shock, amuse, terrify and manipulate, seeking to fill that empty spot in my soul with something new.”
? Anthony Bourdain,
Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly

He had a dark side, a dark side that won in the end and killed him.

"Are you suggesting that coconuts migrate?” My Bio...

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