We were as giddy as school girls, my lifelong friend and I, as we were whisked down the East Coast Parkway to The Ritz Carlton. How could it be, that two middle-aged moms from The Northwest had ended up in Singapore, heading to meet famous bad boy chef and author, Anthony Bourdain?
It was 2005, not early in his career, (he’d been a successful writer for years at this point, and his Food Network show was extremely popular), yet really just prior to his blast into the fame stratosphere.
I’d actually met him once before in Singapore, at a gala dinner he’d hosted upon the launch of his A Cook’s Tour, a book I subsequently credit for getting me through a poorly-timed vaycay to Thailand during monsoon season…my kids swam in the pouring rain while I sat in the adjacent hotel patio bar, drinking gin and tonics and losing myself in that Bourdain wit.
But I digress…
Bourdain had graciously accepted my offer to meet in Singapore, I’d mentioned on a fan chat site that I’d like to gift him with a ceramic durian. If you’ve seen his early shows on SE Asia, you’ll know he actually loved the stinking fruit.
So we sat together in The Chihuly Lounge of the Singapore Ritz, Bourdain buying us wines, he himself a draft Tiger Beer. We talked about what had brought us here, his books, his series. He bought another round.
Anthony Bourdain was just who you’d expect him to be…an Everyman, genuine and someone proud of his (then) life journey. He shared that he was as surprised as anyone about his climb to fame. He was very sincere about this. And, maybe just a little concerned by it.
We asked what was next for him, and he basically stated he was “gonna ride the fame train as long and as far it would take him”.
We talked about Vietnam, a place I’d also recently visited, and he said that (at that point), it really was his favorite country he’d been to. He said that, down the road, (after he’d milked the celeb game for as much as he could get), he envisioned a life of retirement there, chilling on a beach, drinking beer.
Over the subsequent years, I fell off away from my Bourdain fan-girlism. I didn’t really like the way he was portrayed as the expert for travel adventure and as King of all foodies. “6 Things Anthony Bourdain Says You Must Try!”, and, “Bourdain Advises Never To Do This!”, were headlines I kept seeing, and nagging in the back of my head was the memory of our meeting. He just didn’t come off as anyone who wanted to become preacher and saint to the (travel) masses.
I don’t pretend to know what led him to end his life. I suspect that not being able to reconcile with the worldwide fame was maybe in there. I hope he’s found peace, though.
I’m just going to imagine him on that Vietnamese beach now, drinking a 333. Rest well, Tony.