Bourdain News: Sad and Happy

January 14, 2020

By Karen

I just learned that Anthony Bourdain’s brother Chris has announced the death of their 85-year-old mother Gladys on Friday, January 10, 2020, in hospice in the Bronx. The New York Times just reported it this afternoon.

(If you’re not an NYT subscriber, you may be able to open a free account to get to the article. That’s how I got all the NYT links in this post.)

Chris said Gladys had been in failing health for some time.

She worked at the NYT as an editor from 1984 to 2008, and wrote articles for it and other publications on the side. Back in 1978, she had a profile of Julia Child published in the NYT after visiting Child in Southern France. That was the year Tony graduated from the Culinary Institute of America, but I don’t know if he accompanied his parents on that trip to France, possibly as a graduation present?

Her obituary credits Gladys as the force behind Tony getting the career-launching article published in The New Yorker that led to his book deal for Kitchen Confidential. She happened to know the wife of The New Yorker’s new editor, who had been an NYT reporter, and Gladys vouched that Tony’s work was good enough for the woman to show to her husband.

The article was published and the rest, as they say, is history.

Gladys was born in 1934 and married Pierre Bourdain in 1954, a year after he got out of the Army. Tony was born in 1956.

Gladys’ obituary says she separated from Pierre in 1980 (Tony would have been about 24). Whether they ever divorced, I don’t know.

When Pierre died in 1987 at age 57, his obituary made no mention of Gladys.

Gladys died with Tony’s name tattooed on her wrist — her only tat.

Now for the happy news…

Minutes before I saw the sad news about Gladys, I read that that Bourdain’s co-author Laurie Woolever has finished one of the books they were working on before he died. It’s called World Travel: An Irreverent Guide, and will go on sale October 13. It’s available for preorder on Amazon.


Anthony Bourdain Auction: More Information

September 18, 2019

By Karen

OCTOBER 3 UPDATE: You can now preview photos of everything up for auction and see opening bids at iGavelAuctions.

Two hundred-fifteen items from Anthony Bourdain’s estate will be auctioned online October 9-30 by Lark Mason Associates on their website, iGavelAuctions. Items may be previewed beginning October 2.

People.com reproduced many of the photos The New York Times (subscription only) ran of some items believed to be most grabby for Bourdain’s fans, including his writing desk, a jacket he was given by the Navy when he was rescued from Beirut in 2006, and a chef’s knife made especially for him in South America in 2016.

During the auction period, Lark Mason will have some of the items on exhibit in the firm’s offices in New York; New Braunfels, Texas; and Savannah, Georgia.

It’s being widely reported that 40% of the proceeds will fund the Anthony Bourdain Legacy Scholarship at his alma mater, the Culinary Institute of America. Barron’s added that this honor was established “in partnership with chefs Eric Ripert and José Andrés in June.”

The remainder of the proceeds will go to Bourdain’s estate.

Lark Mason estimates the market value of the items to be between $200,000 and $400,000. I personally think we’re looking at a sale that will easily fetch seven figures.

I’ve learned from a trusted source that many of the items were selected because Bourdain acquired them after he separated from his wife Ottavia in 2016. They have little sentimental value for his family nor associations with his life as a husband and father.

The item that stands out to me is the creepy painting Tony bought a week before he died titled, The sky is falling. I am learning to live with it, by John Lurie.

Tony visited the artist at his home for the Lower East Side New York episode, which was the last aired Parts Unknown. Lurie made Tony two hard-boiled eggs. Tony’s assistant Laurie Woolever revealed to the NYT that Tony paid $19,000 for that painting.

Here’s the brief list of items with estimated values the iGavel site provides…

  • Brad Phillips (Canadian), Cristine and Me as Still-Life, oil on canvas, 2016 ($2,000-$4,000)
  • John Lurie (American, b. 1952), This Party Sucks, watercolor on paper ($1,000-$2,000)
  • Peter Lovig Nielsen teak flip-top desk, Denmark, 20th century ($800-$1,200)
  • Custom Bob Kramer steel and meteorite chef’s knife ($4,000-$6,000)
  • Chrome duck press from the Paris episode of The Layover ($200-$300)
  • Vietnamese blue-and-white ceramic tall bottle form vase, with cover ($250-$450)
  • Original typed manuscript or early draft for A Bone in the Throat ($700-$1,000)
  • Simpsons script for Bourdain episode, “The Food Wife,” with signed inscriptions to Bourdain ($800-$1200)

I have been able to obtain another partial, but more extensive, list. Here are some small items Cats Working readers might be interested in bidding on…

  • White chef jacket
  • Zippo lighter engraved, “No Reputations. Desert Special 2011”
  • Art pottery ceramic green umbrella stand
  • Framed photo and note from Billy Joel to Bourdain, dated 2005
  • Molded glass ceiling light fixture
  • Two dark blue ceramic lamps

Art will figure prominently. The titles of works Bourdain collected say a lot. Here are more…

  • Phillips, Eat, Pray, Get the Fuck Out, watercolor on paper
    • Tan Lines in March, watercolor on paper, 2013
    • Just Jumping, oil on canvas
  • Lurie, The Judge was hypnotized by alcohol, jet print on rag paper
  • Ralph Steadman (British, b. 1936), Rats in the Kitchen, artist’s proof inscribed to Bourdain, 2009
    • Hunter S. Thompson, Twisted Meat Artist, artist’s proof
    • The Brain of Hunter Thompson, silkscreen, artist’s proof
  • Etching, Street View from Saigon, and a print of Angkor Wat Ruin
  • Les Ruines d’Angkor, Indochine, modern
  • African carved wood and metal ritual figure, Congo
  • Nepalese carved and lacquered wood mask, and a Tibetan silver decorated animal skull

There’s also some furniture, ostensibly from his last apartment in the Time Warner Center because the pieces are all dated 2016, including…

  • Shell Lake Woodcrafters Sap soft maple black shelf or media center
  • Stickley Mission Style one drawer nightstand
  • Stickley tall bookcase

And a wood vanity with drawers and mirror, a tall mahogany dresser, a walnut credenza, and a small red and black low table.

My list also has seven sets of cuff links and three watches, including a Rolex and a pocket watch.

I’m told this is by no means the entirety of Anthony Bourdain’s possessions, regardless of media reports about how sparingly he collected things. The bulk of his belongings are still in his estate’s custody.

However, what the family is parting with will allow future culinary students to travel and study abroad and give Bourdain’s fans who wish to do so an opportunity to purchase material things that he touched and which touched his life.


Book Review – Anthony Bourdain: The Last Interview

September 9, 2019

By Karen

I read The Last Interview, a 109-page trade paperback, in two sittings over the weekend. I believe it’s the 23rd installment in a series about deceased writers, musicians and celebrities.

It begins with an introduction by food writer Helen Rosner about how she discovered Bourdain and eventually got to know him personally. They were in touch right up to his death, and she never got to respond to his last note.

It’s unclear if she selected the seven interviews in the book, arranged chronologically from 2003, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2016, January 2018, and finally June 3, 2018, the last Sunday he was alive.

Quick digression on production quality. This book isn’t going to age well in your Bourdain collection. It’s printed on that coarse, cheap paper that yellows. And I wonder about the editing. Some chapters are transcripts of live appearances, and I was surprised to find typos like “Namimbia” and “Columbia” (the latter misspelled four times).

During a 2011 appearance in Sydney, Tony said about his daughter Ariane, “I don’t want her reading terrible shit about me on the internet, behaving badly toward women, for instance. I’m not going to do that.”

I just shook my head, thinking, “No, Tony, you did something much, much worse.”

As a Bourdain watcher since 2007, I didn’t really learn anything new about him here. The most notable bit for me was when Tony mentioned in his 2013 interview with Neil deGrasse Tyson the Roman condiment garam. He described it as “essentially rotten fish guts and rotten fish sauce,” and said it was as ubiquitous a seasoning in Europe as salt is to us. If he’s ever mentioned garam on TV, I missed it, and it was another example of his encyclopedic mind.

January 2018 is a transcript of Bourdain on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. That might have been the last time I saw Tony alive in real time. He seemed in good spirits, saying, “I’m an enthusiastic son of a bitch.”

In hindsight, we know he was then embroiled in trying to extricate his girlfriend Asia Argento from charges of allegedly raping a 17-year-old boy. You may refresh on the timeline of that in this archived post.

The last chapter is an interview with IndieWire, which was published on June 3, a Sunday. Parts Unknown Hong Kong first aired on CNN that night. It was also the weekend Argento cavorted around Rome for the paparazzi with Hugo Clement.

Obviously unaware he was being betrayed as he spoke, Tony raved about working with Argento on Hong Kong, which she supposedly directed. “My god, I’d love nothing more than to repeat the experience. She made it incredible.”

In other interviews, he’d called that shoot some of his best work. It’s become one of CNN’s “lost” episodes because they no longer rerun any Parts Unknown Argento was involved with.

Bourdain went on about Argento: “She listens to my advice and frequently if not most of the time, rejects it. That is something Asia cannot help but do. She is brutally honest about herself and anything, and it’s a great quality.”

I just about gagged on that paragraph. And when I turned the page and realized that was the last line in the book, my jaw dropped. It felt like the editor deliberately left readers to wonder, was Bourdain really that deluded or just lying? We still don’t know.

You can read that particular interview at IndieWire.

On Tuesday, June 5, Bourdain, while filming in France, would see the photos of Argento with Hugo. We’ve heard only unverified stories about arguments, and Eric Ripert told Tony’s mother Tony had been in a “dark mood,”

On Friday, June 8, Ripert found Tony dead in his hotel room of apparent suicide.

Personally, for the foreseeable future I’ll buy any book about or by Bourdain. Fingers crossed he left something more to publish. But I’d say go ahead if you want to give The Last Interview a miss. Reams of more illuminating interviews are available online.

For example, I was surprised that “Bourdain Confidential” in Popula from February 2018 with Maria Bustillos wasn’t included.

Or even better, you can just reread the books Bourdain wrote before his life took that last fatal turn.


Gordon Ramsay Couldn’t Shake Bourdain’s Shadow

September 4, 2019

By Karen

Gordon Ramsay’s first season of Uncharted recently wrapped on National Geographic. On the NatGeo site you can watch his travels to Peru, New Zealand, Morocco, Laos, Hawaii and Alaska. The reviews were not positive, usually comparing Ramsay unfavorably to Anthony Bourdain.

Ramsay has been my guilty pleasure for years, though I admit he’s not for everybody.

He shows (I hope) his nice side on MasterChef Junior with adorably precocious kids. On adult MasterChef, the withering insults flow, but he leaves the heaviest dickishness to fellow judge Joe Bastianich.

I love Hell’s Kitchen when Ramsay, in bleep-filled fury, strips culinary bozos of their delusions of competence. He’s similar on 24 Hours to Hell and Back, trying to save failing restaurants by berating and humiliating the owners in front of their customers. I was also a fan of Kitchen Nightmares and Hotel Hell. Not so much The F Word.

Bottom line: I’ve seen a lot of Gordon Ramsay. Uncharted was something else.

Ramsay denies ripping off the Bourdain formula, saying he got the idea in Cambodia during a 2004 visit. But comparison was inevitable because both men’s series focused on travel and food. Ramsay’s big twist was his trademark move: turning the food into a competition with a tight deadline.

Ramsay’s mission was to learn as much as he could about the place’s cuisine in a week, then to prepare a feast against a local chef, with invited guests blindly choosing which dishes they preferred.

To make it a “fair fight,” Ramsay gave himself the disadvantage of cooking outdoors with unfamiliar ingredients. He always managed to create something edible, but his dishes weren’t always the favorites. His willingness to come in second showed, at least, an attempt to be humble.

To develop his menu, Ramsay roamed around and had people show him where ingredients such as eels, ants, beetles, grubs, plants growing on cliff sides, fish and game were sourced. Gathering them was often physically grueling, showcasing that 52-year-old Ramsay works out a lot.

What Uncharted never showed was Ramsay strolling through city or village markets, looking effortlessly chic and cool in a rumpled shirt and jeans.

Also missing was the stunning cinematography that Bourdain’s Zero Point Zero film crew had honed to Emmy quality. Uncharted captured what it needed of Ramsay, but any tourist could have shot the uninspired B-roll.

Another glaring omission for Bourdain-spoiled viewers was compelling narrative. Ramsay’s voiceover was often nicely self-deprecating, but light on wit and insight.

Ramsay did break new ground by introducing the Ugly American’s cousin — the Ugly Scot. He mocked locals for going to extremes to snag ingredients. He spit out what he was served a lot. Apparently not a drinker, he missed those opportunities to bond with his hosts, settling instead for a quick sip of the local brew, then insulting it with a puckered face.

Most irritating to me were Ramsay’s ever-present deadlines, which he enlisted everyone into helping him meet.

“I want to hear all about your history, your culture and your cooking techniques, but I’ve got this feast to prepare in the morning, so chop-chop!”

Bourdain had a production schedule, but I can’t recall ANY meal in ANY of his series where he ever made his hosts feel like he didn’t have all day or night to spend with them, eating, drinking, just shooting the shit and enjoying himself.

If Gordon Ramsay accomplished anything with Uncharted, it was to unwittingly remind us of the extraordinary soul we lost with Bourdain’s passing.


It’s June 25. How are You Celebrating #BourdainDay?

June 25, 2019

By Karen

I’m inviting everyone to let us know how you may be remembering Anthony Bourdain on #BourdainDay, what should have been his 63rd birthday.

[People.com]

Eric Ripert and José Andres, who initially announced this celebration, were in Singapore (12 hours ahead of the U.S. East Coast) and posted their toast and feast on Twitter yesterday.

Restaurants across the country too numerous to list here are planning various events and special menus to honor Tony.

Later today I hope to trek to Popeye’s Chicken, a few miles off my usual rounds, to try some spicy chicken, biscuits and gravy, and mac and cheese, which were Tony’s guilty favorites.

[Weirdly, when Bourdain died last year, I was in such a state of shock that I patronized a nearby Bojangles Louisiana Chicken by mistake and couldn’t figure out why they didn’t serve his mac and cheese.]

A few notes on some new developments…

The book, Anthony Bourdain Remembered, seems to have dropped off the Publishers Weekly bestseller list already, after standing at No. 10 a week or so ago.

His last graphic novel, Hungry Ghosts, is being made by Sony into a four-part animated series. They say each episode will have a different look and include the accompanying Bourdain recipe. Not sure how that will work. Also, no word yet on where or how the series will be available.

New Jersey officially opened the Bourdain Food Trail on June 13 with a ceremony that Tony’s brother Chris attended. It includes 10 stops they made for an episode during season 5 of Parts Unknown.

Tony’s alma mater, the Culinary Institute of America, in partnership with Eric Ripert and José Andres who are helping with fundraising, has established a scholarship to enable students to study abroad. Donations are also being accepted online.

On June 10, Bourdain was named one of 10 winners of EatingWell’s 3rd Annual American Food Hero Award.


One Year: Anthony Bourdain Remembered

June 8, 2019

By Karen

Eric Ripert and José Andrés declared on Twitter that June 25 — Anthony Bourdain’s 63rd birthday — is #BourdainDay. They encourage us to pay tribute to Tony in any way we see fit.

But today, June 8, marks one year since Tony ended his life while filming in France, shocking a world unaware of the internal and external demons he was battling.

On May 28, CNN and Ecco published Anthony Bourdain Remembered, a gorgeous book of photos and tributes to Tony originally compiled as a keepsake for his daughter, Ariane. I’m so thankful she agreed to share it with us.

Brace yourself upon first read because many pages turn and you suddenly have Tony’s brown eyes close up and staring through you. It’s a joy to see him, but also heart-breaking.

Cats Working wasn’t a contributor in spite of the reams you and I have written about Tony here. Neither was Nigella Lawson.

Rewatching Parts Unknown, and poring over this book, I find myself searching for his silver wedding ring. To me it signifies when he was relatively content and grounded. In hindsight I’ve bisected his life into two very lopsided halves: pre- and post-fatal attraction.

Speaking of Parts Unknown, I’ll confess my interest waned near the end, and unwatched episodes piled up on the DVR. Tony seemed to be retracing his steps, but lacking joie de vivre. I don’t think he filmed his last season without a friend or acquaintance with him. It was as if he’d grown sick of his own company.

I rationalized that Bourdain once described himself as a bus that made many stops, and he didn’t expect everyone to stay on for the entire ride.

In his “spare” time, he was everywhere: producing documentaries; trying to launch the never-to-be Bourdain Market; Roads & Kingdoms; editing books for his Ecco imprint; writing and recording voiceovers for other ZPZ shows; doing personal appearances and interviews; supporting charities; filming Raw Craft videos for The Balvenie Scotch Distillery; writing a novel he’d been working on for years.

I’m sure I’ve left a lot out.

Now I wish I’d stayed on that bus and hung on, like I did for the years after I first stumbled upon him in 2007 on Travel Channel and began sharing my fascination with him on Cats Working.

The archive still has the most complete account of Bourdain’s career and life in those days that you’ll find anywhere on the internet. He was on the cusp of transcending cable TV obscurity to become what the world came to adore — the antithesis of the Ugly American.

We all thought we had many years ahead to hop on and off the Bourdain bus. Until we woke up one Friday morning to learn he’d hopped off it himself.

I don’t know yet what I’ll do on June 25. It’s a Tuesday. But food and drink will definitely be involved. Maybe you can give me some ideas.

UPDATES…

I haven’t seen anything about CNN’s documentary on Bourdain’s life. Ditto on the two books Tony’s co-author Laurie Woolever said she was working on.

Tony’s Russian sidekick Zamir Gotta was enlisting companions for a five-day tribute cruise to Cuba on Royal Caribbean’s Majesty of the Seas October 14. But Trump just fucked that up by suddenly, for no reason, banning port calls in Cuba by cruise ships sailing from the U.S.

I’ve lost track of Ottavia and Ariane. They moved from the home where they and Tony staged some of the photos in his last cookbook, Appetites. The place sold in May.

One day I arranged all of Tony’s books in order of publication (from right to left) so I could see his evolution. I once hoped to fill the entire shelf with his books, but the only new additions now will be written about him. I’m sure there will be many.

Parts Unknown has continued to win awards, including…

The six-part Explore Parts Unknown web series on Little Los Angeles won a James Beard Media Award in May, as well as an award for Visual and Technical Excellence.

In February, Parts Unknown: Bhutan won a 2019 Cinema Audio Society Award for Re-Recording Mixer.

Also in February, Parts Unknown: West Virginia won an American Cinema Editors (ACE) Award for Best Edited Nonscripted Series.

In January, Parts Unknown Seasons 11 and 12 won a 2019 Producers Guild Award for Non-Fiction TV.

BONUS…

Actor Michael Moriarty has been writing a series about Bourdain on his blog, Enter Stage Right. They’re strange, to put it mildly. See for yourself. The blog is needle-in-a-haystack on searches, so here are the links I found…

#1 Introduction (3/11/19)

#2 Detroit (3/18/19)

#3 Mexico (4/8/19)

#4 Russia (4/15/19)

#5 Chiang Mai, Thailand (4/22/19)

#6 Shanghai (4/29/19)

#7 Tanzania (5/6/19)

#8 Iran (5/13/19)


Unintended Consequence of Silence RE: Bourdain’s Suicide

November 27, 2018

By Karen

CNN has eked out its last moments of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown. His apartment has new tenants. His condo is on the market because his wife and daughter have moved elsewhere.

In spite of his books, reams of interviews, TV shows and movie appearances still available to read and watch, because his voice is gone on current events, he’s inexorably blurring and slipping into irrelevance, like a dream remembered.

It’s been nearly six months, and not only do I still feel no closure, but I’m troubled by how his suicide is morphing in a way he never would have intended.

On November 13, The Wall Street Journal ran an article, “The Dark Side of the Restaurant World.” It led with a Chicago restaurant manager, Charles Ford, deciding “he would no longer be silent about his three suicide attempts,” and discussed the physical and emotional toll of restaurant work — long hours, abysmal pay, never-ending physical demands.

But the sentence that got my attention was, “Through Mr. Bourdain’s literary manager, Kimberly Witherspoon, the late chef’s family declined to comment for this article.”

On one hand, that made sense because Bourdain hadn’t worked as a chef since 2000, when he began filming A Cook’s Tour for Food Network.

On the other hand, his family’s silence let his suicide be used as a consequence of what ails the restaurant industry. This is what they should have said…

ANTHONY BOURDAIN DIDN’T KILL HIMSELF OVER A JOB HE HADN’T DONE IN NEARLY TWO DECADES.

I think by his count, Bourdain spent 28 years slaving in restaurant kitchens. He was proud to pull himself up the chain until he achieved head chef status at Brasserie Les Halles in New York City. He told this story across several books. If there’s someone out there with a better memory, please tell me where he ever mentioned feeling suicidal over working in a kitchen.

What I recall is his pride in having the toughness and stamina for the work. He loved hanging out with co-workers after a brutal shift. Later, when he had a platform, he became their most outspoken advocate, particularly for the immigrants and women.

I truly sympathize with Charles Ford’s struggles, but I wonder what Bourdain would have said in his snarky days about a general manager who worked in a suit everywhere but over a hot stove and couldn’t hack it.

Kitchen workers have grueling jobs, but I think they’re mistaken to make Bourdain their poster boy for suicide. It’s just like how people still insist on calling him a “celebrity chef” when he NEVER was.

Pre-Kitchen Confidential, nobody ate at Les Halles because Tony Bourdain was the chef. He’d be the first to say it. By the time he became a bona fide celebrity, he hadn’t been a chef for years.

So far, Chef Daniel Boulud has been the ONLY acquaintance to come anywhere near speaking what’s probably closer to the truth about Bourdain’s death. This month he told Us Magazine Bourdain died because “his heart was broken,” and that his death was “a shock to everyone, absolutely.”

Tony’s mother Gladys said essentially the same about his lack of suicidal tendencies when the news first broke.

In the months since, those of us seeking the truth have taken a closer look at the dark forces that began to consume Bourdain in 2016 when he fell in with Asia Argento and her friends.

This past September, Argento was still giving teary interviews about how she felt Bourdain had abandoned her and her two children (for the record, her daughter is 17 and her son now lives with his father in the U.S.), with no mention of Bourdain’s own 11-year-old daughter.

This month (November), Argento was reported to have hooked up with a paparazzi sprung earlier this year from his second jail stint, they had sex on her table, and he claimed to be besotted with her. Italian media soon reversed course, reporting it was a stunt Argento pulled for money and publicity. Whichever version is true, that’s just a peek at the woman Bourdain considered his “soulmate” until he learned three days before he died that she had cheated on him.

Tony’s family didn’t hold a public memorial service because they didn’t think he’d want one. But memorials are for the living, not the dead. Into the void have grown many pop-up homages, mostly by restaurant chefs, which is great. Bourdain was their champion. His life had become one of showing us restaurants and their menus all over the world that we’d otherwise never know.

He was restaurant workers’ biggest cheerleader, but I think he’d be the last to consider his death emblematic of how hard and hopeless kitchen work can be.

Rather, he was a SURVIVOR of it and proud to be. It was his life AFTER being a chef that killed him. We still don’t — and may never — know exactly what aspects of his life did it.

Unfortunately, this silence has left the door open to whatever spin anyone wants to put on it. I don’t think Bourdain would have approved.


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