I was first introduced to Anthony Bourdain when I pondered a possible future as a chef with former roommate, pal and web-genius Mark Petrakis (aka: Spoonman for those of you in the 80's and 90's performance art scene). When I mentioned to Mark, who was also a former cook in a restaurant and who taught me about the frugal magic and majesty of caramelized onions---that I was contemplating a life as a chef, he recommended I read Anthony Bourdain's "Kitchen Confidential".
Being a little afraid of encountering what would amount to a devastation of my master chef fantasies, I stayed away from Anthony Bourdain for five years, until 2004, after catching a bit of "A Cook's Tour" on the Food Network, I realized what I was missing.
Here's this big tall gorgeous guy, serious chef and rabid food writer. His humor had a familiar ring--kind of what my dad, also a cook, would have been if he was raised in Jersey--earthy and irreverent. Catching those brief minutes late at night (Food Network was terrified of Bourdain's outrageousness), I was howling with laughter watching the nation's recipe channel.
A total snarked up foodie. How did this guy make it to national television? But make it, he did, and "No Reservations" is a ritual rush home from work to catch Tony's premiere episode on Monday nights. Thank God, rush hour traffic is light on Mondays in the Bay Area.
Anthony Bourdain has his heart in the right place. He appreciates, respect and emanates a wry enjoyment of all cultures. After being one for most his life, he's got respect for the working man, and certainly reverence for foods and recipes with humble beginnings. He comes to us from a beautifully poignant place, a man in his prime, from a hard-working life in the grueling position of chef. As a cook's daughter, I know what that life was like. That experience makes him cocky and wise, as well as very very grounded. I envy his ability to chronicle his travels with writing skills that are blazingly sharp and loving at the same time.
So today, on Labor Day, I am watching another "No Reservations" marathon in preparation to say adieu to yet another stellar season of first-run episodes. Tony reminds me that loving food is loving life and all its moments. Even if you have to heave up chunks after a bit too much of life. But only he can talk about that, and we who love Tony around the world, appreciate his sacrifice.