I don’t often draw realistic pictures anymore. Cody and David has sort of, in a funny way, caused my drawing skills to atrophy. I draw a lot, but in one style. However, as I sat at my desk today to work on the next comic, I found myself sketching away with my non-photo blue. The image I was sketching away at was of Anthony Bourdain that I had pulled up on my computer.
I don’t talk about it very often, but most of my life has been spent in the kitchen. I still spend a good portion of my life working in a kitchen. Back in my early days when I had just started, working my way up from a dishwasher and then eventually running restaurants, I had always had a mentor that was never there, but was always there.
That was Anthony Bourdain.
He had the skill, the drive, the passion. He did what he loved and he did it well. An amazing storyteller. I could think of no one else that I would love to have grabbed a beer with and just shot the shit. Out of all of the famous chefs I have looked up to, none of them seemed as real or down to Earth as Bourdain.
If not for the first chef that I ever worked under and the writing and wisdom of Bourdain, I would have ran away from the restaurant life screaming. His writing, his shows, his personality, etc., all of that helped give me a drive I needed and gave me a skillset and a resume that provided me for many years the ability to work where ever I wanted. I was blessed in my restaurant career with the ability and opportunities to work in some fancy pants restaurants, and under some bad ass chefs.
Had my first chef not introduce me to Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, and everything else by the man, I don’t even want to think about how boring my life would have been. I would probably be miserable working IT somewhere and would have never even dreamed of starting Cody and David Studios. Through a passion in cooking I gained the confidence to start something I have dreamt about my whole life, and even though I walked away from that life two-years ago, I do not regret ever having been in it.
About eight or so years back, the second chef I apprenticed under, whom I called Pappy, took his own life. There was only one other chef after him that I apprenticed under, and after that I took off. I didn’t apprentice under anyone after the third; I worked with them. Pappy taking his life was one that hit me. My first chef sent me a text about it while I was working. I was a sous-chef of a fine dining restaurant in my hometown at the time, and when I got the news I was devastated. Pappy worked hard, played hard, and, unfortunately, misunderstood by many. Some of my fondest memories are time spent with that man.
And then I was ashamed of myself. I hadn’t called or even texted Pappy in about four months. He always wanted to know where I was with my career, and I never got to tell him where I had ended up. Worst of all, I never got to thank him.
I was one of the few people he would open up to, and, to this day, I can’t help but think that if I had just stayed in touch that I could have been there for him, as he had been for me, in his time of need.
At the end of my shift, I went to the bar and got a gin and tonic in honor of him. I still get one at least once a year in honor of him. He is the only person I ever drank gin with. I hate gin, but Pappy liked to drink it and I liked to drink it with him.
In a way, today feels a lot like the day I got the news about Pappy. I lost someone who had been there since the beginning. Though I never knew Bourdain, the impact he had on my life was a special one. Kitchen folk work in weird ways. We connect easily. We have been through it. We can easily sit at a bar together, never having met, and just talk. I have always felt like I have known Bourdain in some weird kindred way.
Most of us that have devoted our lives at some point to the kitchen life usually excel at one thing, and that is making others happy. We want to give you the perfect meal, the perfect night. But we all usually fail at one thing, and that is making ourselves happy.
The world has lost a legend, and all of the kitchens are a bit dimmer today.
As I do once a year with a gin and tonic, I will now do with a Negroni.
All I can hope for now is that Anthony Bourdain has finally found peace.
Thank you, Bourdain. For everything. You will be missed.