I met Anthony Bourdain when he was in Seattle doing a show at the Paramount Theatre. I paid the extra $300 to go to the VIP and meet him and another famous chef from Seattle. It was a great experience. I took no photos, because I wanted to enjoy it. While it was only a quick handshake and a thank you, it was completely worth it.
Anthony Bourdain inspired millions of people to look beyond food and explore the culture that was around you. He took us around the world without the need of a passport. He spoke his mind and he didn’t care if you liked what he had to say or not. He was a rare breed of person, chef, author and traveler. He was a uniting being who opened mine and everyone else’s eyes.
I have worked in the food service industry for over 20 years now in every kind of job. Tony brought our world to the masses and exposed that kitchen work is not a glamorous job at all. It’s hard work and will drain your will to live. There’s nothing like working a 10 hour shift with nonstop tickets printing out all day and night. Now, at almost 42, it’s not something I can do or want to do anymore.
While reading Tony’s book Medium Raw recently, I realized that he would actually respect the head chef job that I have now. He mentions his heroes and villains in the book and at first explains why Jamie Oliver was a villain but is now a hero. Mainly because of Oliver’s work trying to bring attention to the state of school lunches in the United States. I am a school chef, but don’t let that fool you.
I am a chef at an early learning school in the Seattle neighborhood of Fremont in the same building as Geek Wire, whom Bourdain featured on his Seattle episode of Parts Unknown last year. It is not your typical school food. No cardboard pizza here with crappy hamburgers. The school I work at, Our Beginning, is a different kind of job and one that I enjoy. The kitchen is open and is located near the front door and the parents and teachers walk by every day and greet me. The food is 100% organic and about 90% from scratch. I only use olive or coconut oil and the two of us (me and my assistant) pump out about 800 meals a day for the nearly 200 students that attend the school. It’s a fun job and the kids go crazy for the food.
When I woke up on June 8th and found out that my idol took his own life, I thought about that impact on me first, because that is just human nature. But after a few tears and seeing the smiling faces of the children coming to school, I understood that it was bigger than me. This man was loved by everyone I know who worked in the service industry and we are all devastated in his death. I wish that I had met with him while he was hanging with the guys from Geek Wire, I think he would have been impressed with what we have coming out of our little kitchen for these children I love so much.
Anthony Bourdain left a legacy that no one can take away from any of us. The books, television shows and memories will remain. I’m grateful for that.
He will be missed.
Thank you for your wisdom and honesty
Chef Josh Coffee