Hardly has anyone held greater sway over the hearts of those who love food and travel than Anthony Bourdain, the influential writer, chef and TV host, who would have turned 67 tomorrow. June 25 is marked as Bourdain Day by fans and followers of the iconic pop culture figure and if you want to remember Tony in style, we have the perfect at-home reckoner.
His long-time associate and ‘lieutenant’ Laurie Woolever tells us, “Tony was known for travelling to nearly every corner of the globe, but what people sometimes forget is that travel was his work. When he had a rare few days or weeks off, he sought out places that provided comfort and familiarity, not challenge: warm-weather resorts chosen for the size of their pools and the reliability of the room service cheeseburger, or a Long Island beach community that reminded him of happy boyhood summertimes at the Jersey Shore. The food and drink were neither novel nor distinguished: sausages on a grill, mass-produced beer, local fruit. Even a world traveller can benefit from a recharge with simple comfort.”
With that spirit, let’s dive in!
The Negroni. You may contend that a no-fuss cold beer was the iconic chef’s weakness, but the old-fashioned approximation was, what he widely called the perfect cocktail. Interestingly, the Cook’s Tour host despised coffee, but in case you don’t, it’s worth trying this spin to the classic Italian aperitif — called the Park Street Negroni, it marries bold, strong notes of coffee with the bittersweet classic. Throw Dewar’s 15 YO sweet vermouth (15-45ml), martini rosso (15ml), Campari (15ml), amaro Montenegro and coffee foam together. Give it a quick stir and voila!
Recipe by Grace Muivah, brand lead, AMPM Kolkata (the coffee used is single-origin nGarum Coffee from northeastern India)
Give your biryani cravings the mandi rice treatment! The Yemeni rice-and-meat dish was what Bourdain enjoyed whenever he was in the Middle East. Aromatic and bursting with a medley of flavours, mandi is an Arabian staple. It typically consists of tender, spiced and slow-cooked meat (lamb, chicken or mutton), served on a bed of fragrant rice. It’s tough to get your hands on an authentic version when not in the Middle East, so order in.
Another country whose food the late chef and TV host adored was Vietnam. On his birthday, try a pho or bánh mì, which will evoke memories of the time Bourdain sat at an eatery in Hanoi, to eat and chat with the then-President of the United States, Barack Obama. In case good Vietnamese is hard to find in your part of the world, a quick bite at the local hole-in-the-wall is a great idea. Bourdain was a big champion of food trucks and smaller joints, so step out for noodles or dumplings with a chilled beverage to wash it down with — in true Tony style!
Both of Bourdain’s travel shows, Parts Unknown and No Reservations, are available to stream in India. If you’d rather watch a film, go for Ratatouille, the animated comedy-drama about a rat with its sights set on the toque of the ultimate French chef. The evocative 2007 film was, in Bourdain’s view, the best film about food. Another of his all-time faves was Wong Kar-wai’s iconic Hong Kong independent drama Chungking Express (1994), which follows two cops grappling with loneliness and nursing heartbreak in a bustling metropolis. Notably, Tony shot his Parts Unknown: Hong Kong episode with Christopher Doyle, Kar-wai’s frequent collaborator, who also shot Chungking Express.
Get Jiro! — a satirical, dystopian graphic novel set in a futuristic city divided into warring culinary factions, which Bourdain co-created with novelist Joel Rose. To get into the Tony spirit completely, go for the Kitchen Confidential audiobook, narrated in his own voice. Or just pick a chapter (or more) from Laurie Woolever’s 2021 collection World Travel — a guide to some of the world’s most fascinating places, told using Bourdain’s perspectives.
Making sushi. We know it’s a bit ambitious but the versatile Japanese staple is what the man would choose to have for his final meal, he often told outlets. One place to start is by ordering a basic cook-it-yourself kit and start by following tutorials online. Bourdain, who had little patience for those who did not cook, said, “Everyone should know how to make an omelette, roast a chicken properly, grill a steak properly and how to make a very basic stew or soup with basic vegetables and pasta.” Spaghetti is another good place to begin — try the classic, cacio e pepe, a pasta that the man favoured over all other versions. Still too much work? Then go for fried eggs with garlic, two of Tony’s most cherished ingredients.