Anthony Bourdain, My Culinary Touchstone

By Lorraine Moss

I never got to meet Anthony Bourdain in the flesh. But like many, possibly millions of people, when he died, I had thought I knew him. Well, I did know at least a part of the iconic chef. The consummate journalist (yet he often balked at being called one) told stories of food and culture through the lens of everyday people. He was a man who slurped Vietnamese noodles with the President of the United States, but he made sure it took place at a hole in the wall, sitting on a plastic stool with a cold beer.      

“That’s how I’ll remember Tony. He taught us about food – but more importantly, about its ability to bring us together. To make us a little less afraid of the unknown,” tweeted President Obama.

On June 8, 2018, I woke up like many, not knowing what had happened in France overnight. My husband, Mitch, hesitated to share the horrible news of Bourdain’s untimely death. Because he knows me better than anyone on earth, he knew it would shake my foundation.

Up to this moment, I felt that one day, if I was very lucky, if I knew the right people, if I wrote an article that piqued his curiosity, if I happened to be travelling to a distant land he was filming in, or working in a kitchen he was walking through, I would finally get to talk with Tony.

You see, I watched Parts Unknown and No Reservations with a religious fervor. I dissected the meaning behind the narration, the choice of images shot, the people he sought to understand. I discussed the places and cultures he deemed paramount in maniacal detail with Mitch – during dinner, while taking a dip in the pool, over drinks at a Las Vegas bar. Bourdain was a chef turned journalist. I am a journalist turned chef. I felt that he would understand me.

And so, the man who understood my connection with Tony, with tears in his eyes, delivered the news. I could hear what Mitch was saying, but I didn’t want to believe him. How could this happen? Why? Not him. Tony was my culinary touchstone. I cried and cried. I watched episode after episode, Netflix and no chill at all. More crying. My husband had to drag me out of the house to eat. Szechuan noodles to remember Tony, he bargained with me.

After 48 hours of bawling until my eyes hurt like hell, an idea started to emerge. I could do a podcast to provide an honest voice for the culinary community. This could be my small contribution in honor of a chef, a man who told it like it is, and had no reservations about speaking his truth and sharing the truth of those from parts unknown.

This project took a year and an unexpected kitchen injury to come to fruition, but my podcast partner, Louiie Victa and I, are ready now to release 2 Sharp Chefs & A Microphone.

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