Good night, Chef.
I had woken up at 4:30 am to start a blog post. I turned on the TV for background noise, then four short minutes later the world came to a complete stop. No, erase that, not a stop, a complete jolt.
My tired eyes staring down at the words I was typing just moments before on a brightly lit blank screen, that felt blinding. It was now 4:45 am PST, exactly 11 minutes after I heard the news announcement that Anthony Bourdain died. A part of my world crumbled. We’re talking on a level of Bowie. But I just couldn’t bring myself out of pure respect to jump on the “what he meant to me” bandwagon at the time. My feelings were much too raw, too fragile, too heartbroken for Eric Ripert, his daughter, his mother, and Ottavia. This wasn’t just any superstar celeb-chef with gimmicks. And I wasn’t just another travel blogger hopping onboard the Parts Unknown choo-choo train because Tony Bourdain was the ultimate bada** and I had seen and studied every episode.
I just couldn’t be a part of blogging community vying for the “ultimate fan” crown. This was so much more than news and clickbait. It was personal, these were my memories, I didn’t need to prove anything, and I was heartbroken.
“Laughing is easy, I would if I could.” – Mark Lanegan
St. Anthony, Pray for Us
Anthony Bourdain was and forever will be considered the Patron Saint of Travel + Food. His story, this death, his legacy, the memories, they have roots. Deep, intertwining, messy, popping up, lifting sidewalks all over Manhattan kind of roots.
The morning he died, I wasn’t going to rush to try and be the first person to tell my “Tony Bourdain” story of what he meant to me or how he inspired me. Anyone close to me, or cares enough to know me well, knows my connection to Bourdain. My soul hurt and months later it still hurts. I felt as though my gut was torn out. My heart was broken into a million pieces. But the ones like Eric, and Ludo, this was their time to grieve for their friend, their mentor.
I thought it was beautiful how his “camp” of friends were so extremely loyal and protective of Tony and his family, his mother, daughter, Ariane, and Ottavia. They only spoke of him in the highest regards, and never once uttered a word, an implication, suggestion, or detail of what may or may not have happened. There was zero speculation, just pure mourning. Unlike Kate Spade who had passed just days earlier, her death became a circus, same with Chris Cornell, and dear Chester Bennington.
Please Don’t Be True… Confirmed.
When I first read the news. I shook Jamie from a deep sleep, “No. No. No. Wake up! Wake up! Anthony Bourdain is gone.” He jumped up, let out a sigh, and “No,” was all he said. I had a history with this man, together with Jamie, we had a history with this man way before he was a household name. We knew Bourdain years before those TV shows and travel channel specials appeared. They were mere bonuses to us because now AB would be in our home every week telling stories from stops around the world.
Then his birthday passed just weeks later and the sadness was still thick. It lurked. Everything just felt really sticky, and icky and seems to be resonating much longer than other high-profile deaths. Thick and heavy like his sarcasm, as though you could cut it with a knife.
This next part of this blog post is the original post I wrote the morning of Anthony Bourdain’s death, but couldn’t bring myself to publish it.
Bourdain Has Left The Building
Anthony Bourdain decided on his own terms that today would be his last day on Earth. Like the rest of the world, and especially the travel and culinary communities, for selfish reasons, I’m gutted. Sad that I will never hear his storytelling again, sad that I will not wake to any new undiscovered places, sad for the sweet memories my life has created surrounding Anthony Bourdain.
I hope with all my might that the other side exceeds his expectations, and he’s already working on his next series to share with us there: Heaven 101 by Tony Bourdain. Because in Heaven he goes by Tony or AB to those in his inner circle. How do I know this? I just do.
A death this big deserves it’s own time, place, and personalize bereavement. He loved Mark Lanegan for godsakes, of course, this traveling man deserves proper time and privacy. I’m in this weird state of shock and just plain sad. Surprised? Not completely, actually not at all. I just didn’t expect it to be now, at some point? Yes. If you open your heart and eyes wide enough, you can look straight into someone’s eyes and see how close they are to the edge. As though their souls are screaming for help. I saw this in Anthony.
My First Encounter with Anthony Bourdain
It was the mid-90s, and my first “non-parental” adult dining experience with friends was at Les Halles on Park Avenue. That night changed my life. It had a tiny butcher shop featuring all of the French cuts of meats, and tiny tables that you were practically sitting on your neighbor’s lap. Then there was the energy, the aroma, the vibe, and my God, the flavors. It’s rare when you order something so good, you can remember the first bite for the rest of your life.
You now know, this was the precise culinary moment that laid the groundwork to what would later become The JetSet Family. I ordered the Steak au poivre with frites that were legendary. I ran home to write about it in my journal so I would remember it. The flavors, the atmosphere, and words of what an imposter I felt like for even going to a place this cool decorated the pages of my journal. I guess you could say that was my first blog post ever.
Les Halles was so special to me that it was the first NYC restaurant I ever took Jamie when I brought him home to meet my family for the first time. It’s funny how out of all of the meals we’ve shared all around the world together, he can clearly remember his first experience with me at Brasserie Les Halles, just like I can.
Bourdain and The Blogger
In March, everything came full circle. Eric Stoen wrote me to let me know Time, Inc.’s Money Magazine’s feature cover story: “All the Things You’re Doing Wrong When You Travel,” according to Anthony Bourdain, recommended The Jet Set Family as a go-to family travel source. I was overjoyed, ecstatic, proud, and blown away, but most of all, incredibly grateful. This was is the highest honor. To be recognized, and receive the Bourdain Seal of Approval is the ultimate achievement.
“If you’re planning on taking the whole family with you on the next trip, check out the plethora of sites that have cropped up around family travel, including The JetSet Family and Travel Babbo. These tend to have really strong communities, so you’ll definitely get some feedback (and probably some judgment if you say you’re planning to drop the kids off at the resort day care).” – Time, Inc.
A Kickball to the Face
But that initial high dropped to all-time lows this morning. It hurts, it stings, it’s horrible. I want to cry. The air is being sucked out of the room at an alarming rate, and the world sure will be different. Maybe not your world, but my world certainly will be. Life will go on, but Anthony Bourdain will not be forgotten. I promise to live in his light through the gift of storytelling, and he will continue to be an inspiration for many generations, I promise his stories will live on.
Bourdain, Table for One
Anthony, I hope wherever you are, that you found perpetual peace, The Ramones, and a nice warm and comfortable Chateau Marmont bed.
Rest easy, AB.
Thank you for opening our eyes up to the world. xx
R.I.P. Anthony Bourdain