Anthony Bourdain, who killed himself on June 8 in France at age 61, will always be remembered as an amazing world-travelling food storyteller. He also made an impression on people who have interviewed him and worked with him, as well as those who have only known him from his TV shows and books.
Below, Malaysians pay tribute to Bourdain.
He was known as the “bad boy chef” for the no-holds-barred way he expressed himself. Sugar coating? Not him.
He also, apparently, didn’t suffer fools.
It was for this reason my stomach was in knots for days prior to my phone interview in 2015 with Anthony Bourdain who was doing promotional interviews for a new travel food show.
But I needn’t have worried. Bourdain was charming, friendly and took time to answer all questions with much thought and even more enthusiasm. The guy loved food and it was obvious. He shared stories, anecdotes and more and the call went on for an hour.
When asked about his celebrity status and about a group of fans who allegedly waited at his hotel lobby for hours for a glimpse of him, he said: “You know, I never saw it coming. I don’t know how younger chefs feel … they probably grew up expecting to be famous but for (chefs of) my generation, it came as a huge surprise.
“I mean, I like chefs. I respect their work. I feel very strongly that, at the very least, chefs do something useful. Chefs feed and nurture people. They work very hard at becoming good at a craft that is useful to people. So, I think it’s far more appropriate that a chef is a celebrity than a … Kardashian.”
But there was one question he wouldn’t address: Did he enjoy Malaysian or Singaporean food more?
“I’m not touching that question with a 10-foot pole. You’re not getting me to side with one or the other. I mean, they’re both … I would like to contemplate and compare (the two) for the rest of my life because it’s really just … I love both. Nice try, though.”
What a guy. What a loss. – S. Indramalar, Star2 assistant editor
Notable celebrity chef Redzuawan Ismail or better known as Chef Wan appeared in an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations travel show back in 2005. Bourdain was in Kuala Lumpur to sample some local food and Chef Wan was his guide. When contacted, he expressed sadness over Bourdain’s death.
“I remember we had fun filming that episode in Kampung Baru. At the end of the shoot, we exchanged a lot of ideas about food. His director at that time even said that I outshone him during our segment,” he recalled the memory fondly.
He added: “Later in another interview, I found out that Anthony said he was impressed with my contribution to his show. I’m thankful for the opportunity to have worked with him.” – Interviewed by Angelin Yeoh
Celebrity chef Anis Nabilah, host of shows like AFC’s Icip Icip and TV3’s 1, 2 Bakar is a huge fan of Bourdain and was very upset by his death.
“It’s devastating, I really can’t believe it. He had such a great impact on the culinary world and on me. He was a brilliant man and storyteller, there is no one else like him. My thoughts and prayers are with his family,” she said.
Anis added that Bourdain’s amazing storytelling skills in his cookbooks are part of the reason she feels she just isn’t ready yet to write her own cookbook.
“I always say I’m not ready yet to write my own cookbook, because I cannot tell stories like Anthony Bourdain.
Anyone can pick up his cookbooks and it’s like reading a beautiful story book,” she said. – Interviewed by Abirami Durai
Asia’s guru of grub, Singaporean KF Seetoh, founder of Makansutra and the World Street Food Congress of which Bourdain was a collaborator, was almost speechless.
“I am beyond shocked,” he said. “I lost a very sincere and hardcore partner in this journey to celebrate life and real food culture. I was just in New York last month speaking to some partners on how we can revive his nixed Bourdain Market … and now this.”
Above all else, he will remember his buddy for his “brutal honesty”. – Interviewed by Julie Wong
He’s the chef and superstar of real food, known for his no bullsh*t approach. I interviewed him about his quest to save street food during the World Street Food Congress in Manila last year. He had this amazing clarity about the heart and soul of food, and street food in particular, for him embodied the culture, history, heart and soul of a region.
“I was at that time miffed that Malaysia never got into the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list and he told me, ‘now you don’t have anything to worry about, that list is just bullsh*t’. I didn’t quote him on that then, but I think he should have his say. – Julie Wong, former food editor at Star2
In 2012, Anthony Bourdain filmed an episode of No Reservations in Penang and met with food writer Helen Ong. Some of the things he ate in Penang included a mouth-watering Peranakan food spread prepared by Ong’s mother.
“Unlike other chefs I’ve interviewed, Anthony was flexible. He said I could ask him anything. He was charming and nice. It’s sad really to hear about his death. I got the impression that he enjoyed Penang very much. He loved the food. I’m sure my mother, who is 85 now, would be upset too to hear that he is gone,” she said. – Interviewed by Angelin Yeoh
Celebrity chef Sherson Lian, owner of restaurant Hello by Kitchen Mafia and star of shows like AFC’s Family Kitchen With Sherson has been watching Bourdain on television since he was 17 and is deeply saddened by his death. “It just doesn’t seem to make any sense. To me, he was someone very special. We’re all still cooking food, but he’s sharing places that people would never think of going with the the world,” he said.
Lian is also a fan of Bourdain’s no-holds-barred, true-to-himself approach to being on television. “He was the only one who smoked and drank on television. That’s the beauty of his personality, it’s him we want to watch – it goes beyond food. He wasn’t trying to please anybody, just true to his core, which is why those of us in the industry always looked up to him.”– Interviewed by Abirami Durai