See you Captain Crunch!
I wrote that down as a comment on social media today. I feel sad, but relief for Anthony Bourdain, a man with a great mind. Most everyone saw chef Bourdain as a celebrity with a strong, unique personality.
I saw him as a non-conformist.
Since his book Kitchen Confidential was published, Anthony was not just another voice in the world of fine and not-so-fine dining. I remember I bought a copy of the book in a San Francisco bookstore. I read through most of it on my return trip to San Juan.
From my wine point of view, Bourdain had the guts to write the other side of the gastronomic scene in the Big Apple. His recognition as a chef, a traveler and a man of infinite curiosity was suddenly on the rise.
Many followed his TV adventures, myself included. From the Food Network to CNN, he had a powerful voice about his trade. Sure, people in New York perhaps had a different opinion of cuisine from people in Asia. That was the point. His work was meant to teach us about food culture. He made us better thinkers.
Anthony became a pop icon in the food industry. When I saw his first program on TV in my native Puerto Rico, I could not imagine that years later, I was going to meet him at a Food and Friends Event organized by Chef José Andrés.
It was a very close event and the public relations teams were anxious about how guest would address the gods of celebrity kitchens and cable TV. I was the only local press person invited.
I had the opportunity to introduce myself to Anthony and chef Tim Love with just a line: “Guys, I don’t know about you, but my breakfast was wine before coffee.” They both laughed and graciously agreed to a selfie.
The Friends and Food afternoon forum started at the Dorado Beach. Questions came and their actions expressed their true feelings. José Andrés was barefoot, Anthony was wearing flip flops. Tim Love was relaxing with a glass of champagne, Eric Ripert was at ease. In this moment, they were friends first, chefs second.
I still have my notes from the forum that day. I wrote down the guilty pleasures of each one of them. Anthony’s was – and I’m sure that there were more – having Captain Crunch and Crunch Berries at four in the morning. Surrounded by the best food money could buy, he could still be human as you or I.
When my turn came to ask questions, I was curious about food safety and the use of antibiotics in beef cattle. The question seemed to interest them all, but for Bourdain, in his flip flops and a glass of Laurent Perrier champagne, it seemed a topic he was waiting for.
He spoke about the farm bill, pesticides usage, jails, and GMO’s, but his point, in the end, was focused on the people.
“In my travels” he said, “I have seen a lot.”
What he saw was culture, poverty, agriculture, the best fine dining and the kind you can do at home. He also spoke of the perspective that first world nations have regarding those of the third world.
I will never forget his words as he explained the need to survive and scarcity of food for millions.
He probably didn’t know in the moment, but his knowledge about food and humanity as a whole were beyond anything you’d see on TV. He offered perspective for an over-fed society. For that, I was grateful.
Anthony Bourdain, I hope to see you again in your flip flops, having a glass of champagne. Great minds do not go down so easy.
–Amanda Díaz de Hoyo