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Friends, chefs, fans share their favorite memories of Anthony Bourdain

By Bim Santos Published Jun 10, 2021 3:38 pm Updated Jun 10, 2021 4:18 pm

Three years since Anthony Bourdain's death, a number of his friends and fans gutted by his sudden departure are still left going over the treasure trove of memories that the well-loved chef, author, and travel host left in his wake.

And what a trove of wealth it is that two cultural products were recently released based from his work. One is the book World Travel: An Irreverent Guide by Anthony Bourdain, which was cobbled up by his frequent collaborator and longtime assistant Laurie Woolever. It contains Bourdain's inimitable prose about his travels and favorite places to visit along with additional essays from some of his friends and colleagues.

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A post shared by Laurie Woolever (@lauriewoolever)

The second material is RoadRunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain, which is set to premier tomorrow, June 11, at the Tribeca Film Festival and afterwards will be made available at HBO Max. The film features Bourdain’s narration and a number of never-before-seen footage from his shows.

Bourdain has left many of us quite a meal to chew on, and even years after his death, we are all still trying to parse through the brilliance and sheer authenticity of his work and life. 

In remembrance of the man who has also championed Filipino cuisine on the global stage and who has inspired many local chefs, writers, and artistic individuals, here are a few tributes from some Filipino friends and fans, not all of whom met him, but all were inspired by him.

Claude Tayag (chef, artist, writer)

During our shoot/interview for No Reservations in October 2007, I brought Bourdain to a goat shack, where every part of the animal was served, including its offals called papaitan. So, when it was served to us, on camera, he asked me what it was. I told him it's basically a sour soup/stew of the offals, including the bile.

After swallowing hard, he told me, "My God, Claude, by your description alone, I'm scared to try it. So how do you eat it?" he asked. I told him to add a squeeze of kalamansi and some chopped chilies.

After the first spoonful, he declared: "Man, this is actually good!" And he went on to talk about his other "bad" experiences with bile in other Asian countries.

Cut!

Off camera, he drank the remaining soup directly from the bowl.

That's when I realized that this giant of a man was for real.

Joel Binamira also known as Marketman (restaurateur and writer)

Bourdain was in a class by himself… erudite and insightful and genuinely thought-provoking.

When filming a segment in the Cebu Taboan market, he unexpectedly asked me about the cans of fermenting fish and liquids, and my unscripted reply was something like this “think of the liquid from the controlled rot as the finest quality patis or fish sauce, just as others might revere cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil…” and when the scene was cut, he turned to me amused, and said he couldn’t have described it any better than that.

He also said that in all his travels, the Taboan was the smelliest market he had ever filmed in 😂 . He is sorely missed.

Gene Gonzalez (chef and restaurateur)

Bourdain with Chefs Gene Gonzalez, Gino Gonzalez, JunJun de Guzman,Toto Erfe, Giannina Gonzalez and Judy Ann Santos

Tony Bourdain spent a whole morning and afternoon with us. He was funny and irreverent. Bobby Chinn texted me to greet him and he said in a Cariño brutal fashion “Oh Where is that sonofabitch? Is he in town???"

He loved the Cocido Sulipeño and Tocino del cielo we served him aside from the dishes we demonstrated on cam .

He was truly a bon vivant and he even wanted to shoot the lunch to the protest of his crew that said they were enjoying their lunch because he had Filipino food that wasn’t the stereotype shown in the docu on the Philippines.

Unfortunately, the sequences were only shown in California in a longer show. But it was truly a great honor for having cooked and corresponded with the man.

Rolando Laudico (chef and restaurateur)

An amazing storyteller with a unique sense of humor to boot.

His thirst for discovery and fearless attitude inspires me to this day. He never takes himself seriously but is dead serious about good food and loving life.

Cheers to you Anthony Bourdain I'm sure you're still trippin and rockin the afterlife! 🤘🤘

Ivan Man Dy (Cultural Guide at www.oldmanilawalks.com)

Our walking tour with him around Binondo and Cubao was very spontaneous, we tried bits and pieces of the offerings on the street and restaurants.

Pop for him was Tsinoy lumpia, ginataang alimango and adobong hipon but taho, pansit malabon and fried fishballs were not his thing. He was very candid with his opinions. Our food walk with him was a sampler of the Metro's food culture.

Thirteen years on, I still get asked with my memorable TV brush with him. His legacy and presence lives on with many people.

Ben Razon (photojournalist and Oarhouse Pub owner)

A still of Bourdain from the CNN show Parts Unknown shot inside the Oarhouse Pub

It's been six years since the time he and his crew visited my bar here in Manila. And after he passed and the world lost him, it's been a bit of melancholy and brooding whenever he comes to mind, and for everyone who misses him. But since then I always thought, maybe he'd seen enough things to have informed him that the present state of the world (or the crazy western part of it anyway) was going to be seriously forever fucked in only a matter of time.

So by the time he came to the bar, he wore a kind of world weary tiredness that was visible to me. And like most genuine people, he wasn't faking it. That was the Tony Bourdain I met for a fleeting short day six years ago, and got a sense of who he was.

I'm just happy now that he was spared of this yet ongoing global WTF moment. 

Iris Gonzales (The Philippine Star reporter and columnist)

He struck me as someone really enigmatic, different from his public persona. He was sitting alone in the bar (at the Oarhouse Pub), came to say hi to us then that’s it really. Not a snob but more like...in his own world. But friendly naman. It seemed at the time and in hindsight he had a lot in his mind.

Yung Manila episode I was not supposed to be there but when the shooting was over and we were just drinking na, the cameraman did not stop rolling.

Ige Ramos (Book designer, cook, food scholar)

A collection of books written by Bourdain owned by Ramos, who considers himself more of a fan of Bourdain's written work

I classify my Anthony Bourdain books under anthropology. His novels, cookbooks, and graphic novels are replete with information from primary sources, like ragged journals that survived dangerous expeditions.

His characters are full life, his stories, compelling, like a newly discovered dish, which only Bourdain can express with great brevity, passion and without judgment. When I read him, I could hear his voice, transporting me to a place I’ve never been before.

I once stalked him by calling his hotel room from my office. He was more than gracious. We spent a good 10 minutes and I’ll just keep the conversation to myself as I promised.

Jam Sisante (writer, communications professional)

Anthony Bourdain can tackle difficult issues like no one else can.

Throughout his work he showed that people, at their very core, aren’t all that different: we value food, love our families, cherish our homes. And that helps guide me when I try to navigate unfamiliar places or difficult situations.

But as much as I love serious, profound Tony, I also love his goofy side — and that was on full display whenever he shot with his buddy Chef Eric Ripert. Parts Unknown’s Sichuan episode, where he kept trying to make fun of Eric, never fails to make me laugh. I miss his humor, I miss his words.

The world just isn’t the same without Bourdain.

Paolo Mariano (editor, TV producer)

"What's the opposite of suck? De-suck? Un-suck? This does not suck. Life is good." 

My favorite quote was part of his concluding narration in one of the episodes of No Reservations. The quote isn’t exactly profound. He can’t even find the word he was looking for, which was rare.

But it made me realize the value of stepping back, taking a few breaths, peering through the curtains, and recognizing that indeed, life does not suck. There are way worse things in the world.

The irony isn’t lost on me that Anthony Bourdain eventually felt that life sucks and decided to end his own. But during that random, fleeting moment of introspection, he reminded me that my life doesn’t suck.

If you or someone you know wishes to talk to a mental health professional, here are the hotline numbers of the National Center for Mental Health: 0917-899-USAP (8727); (02) 7-989-USAP or 1553 (landline- toll-free).