Publisher’s Page: The power of communication, knowledge through food


By John A. Winters, Publisher
The SONS and I were flipping through channels not long ago when one of our favorite television personalities popped up.

Chef, writer, journalist, world traveler. A guy who hung out in Hanoi with President Obama drinking beers and slurping noodles on plastic chairs in a street market. Who had steaks in Antarctica, some incredibly weird looking spiders in the jungles of South America and bull testicles in Spain.

Anthony Bourdain. A former heroin addict, who slaved in a kitchen for years; eventually moving up to executive chef at Brasserie Les Halles in New York. He wrote a book called Kitchen Confidential, which hit a chord in America and soared up the charts. That led to a television series on the Food Network.

And that led to Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations on the Travel Channel, where the SONS and I first met him. A few years later he moved over to CNN, where Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, became one of the highest rated shows on a channel that focuses on news. And we were there every Sunday night.

It was in France, while filming for an upcoming show for Parts Unknown, that Bourdain committed suicide. We will never know why a man at the top of his profession would do that.

Bourdain himself acknowledged in countless interviews he thought he had the greatest job in the world. And if you liked food and travel, well then, he did.

What I admired most about Bourdain was he was the ultimate non-celebrity celebrity. He was probably one of the best known chefs in the world. And he had no problem drinking with the president of the free world or some Raj or hanging out with some Mongolian who had never seen a television and had no idea who Bourdain was. And Bourdain didn’t care because the yak was out of this world.

He didn’t always go to the safe places either. Beirut, Iran, interior China, Cuba, the jungles, the deserts, the snow caps and other such locales were all crossed off his bucket list.

He was all about food, conversation and a desire to learn from others. Your religion, political views, social or economic status were irrelevant as long as you respected the other person. I didn’t agree with him politically and cringed at some of his religious, or non-religious views. But I would still love to hang out with him in the kitchen with a glass of wine.

This culinary giant, despite eating all over the world, had missed something special in all his travels. On a food junket with Charleston Chef Sean Brock, he did something we all take for granted. Brock took him to a Waffle House. Bourdain said of his first meal there, “it was indeed marvelous.”

He went on:

“An irony-free zone where everything is beautiful and nothing hurts, for everybody regardless of race, creed, color, or degree of inebriation is welcomed. Its warm yellow glow, a beacon of hope and salvation, inviting the hungry, the lost, the seriously hammered all across the South to come inside, a place of safety and nourishment. It never closes. It is always, always faithful, always there for you.”

I was going to point out our country is becoming more and more divisive. That is not strong enough. We are becoming filled with a hatred based primarily on views. Liberal against conservative; Democrat against Republican. And that’s not even bringing in the race factor.

I think we need to take a recipe from one of Bourdain’s books. Go out to eat with someone different. Let the only discussion center around the pros and cons of scattered, smothered and covered or chunked.

Until next time.