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‘I Had Never Heard Puebla Being Talked About With Such High Regard’ ~ L.A. Taco Writers Bid Farewell to Anthony Bourdain

4:49 PM PDT on June 8, 2018

    The Taco office is saddened by the sudden passing of Anthony "Toño" Bourdain. The loss yanks away one of the foremost and most forthright proponents of Latin American and Latino food and food workers in mainstream U.S. media.

    We felt this one today. It's difficult to comprehend mental illness and suicide for many of us; even the most "together" person can be suffering in solitude. Here are some appreciations and farewells in honor of Anthony Bourdain, from our contributors and staffers at L.A. Taco.

    Reach out to your folks, all the time.

    [dropcap size=big]A[/dropcap]nthony Bourdain represented Puebla, Mexico in a way that I had never seen on TV before— It was authentic, real and it reminder me of my upbringing visiting Puebla. In one of his “A Cook’s Tour” episodes from early 2000, he asks "Where do cooks come from? Why are so many great cooks in New York from Mexico and from Puebla in particular? Why are almost all the cooks in my kitchen from this little village in Puebla?"

    I had never heard Puebla being talked about with such high regard in the culinary sense in the U.S. by a well-known writer and chef — I don’t read about food or watch food shows religiously. My parents are from Puebla. I visited Puebla as a kid often and knew first hand the amazingness of taco árabes, mole poblano and memelas. I knew this food world that most of the US had no idea about, despite the cultural exchanges the two countries have had. When I heard that Bourdain, this older white dude, went to cover such a special place for me, I needed to know how he did it. And he didn't disappoint.

    A view of Izucar de Matamoros/Via Wiki Commons.
    A view of Izucar de Matamoros/Via Wiki Commons.

    On his trip to Izucar de Matamoros, Bourdain showed the world how women in rural Puebla prepare food in outside kitchens. How Poblanos make barbacoa, first creating a whole in the ground, then placing a lamb or a goat inside of it and covering it all with dirt or leaves. The scenes took me back to my abuelita’s house during summer visits. It was unreal how a part of my childhood was on TV. He showed the world where the real culinary richness of Puebla comes from and it was awesome.

    Old punx never die.

    [dropcap size=big]I[/dropcap] took Anthony Bourdain for granted. I never met him or made time to read his books or see many of his shows, but that didn't matter because his influence on the hospitality and food media industry transcended any publication or media company. He is the OG bad boy chef and paved the way for an entire generation of cooks with tattooed sleeves and piercings. He was the anti-influencer.

    He gave hope to punk rockers and fuck-ups who lived fast and expected to die young, in kitchens and in food media, including myself and many who found refuge in food and drink. He made it OK for people who listened to fast music and did drugs to be unashamed and bring their true selves into a fancy restaurant setting. And the guy could outwrite anyone at that.

    Beyond that, he was an early ally for raza and the rest of the immigrant backbone of the restaurant industry. His outspoken, fearless shots at politics in the name of them is a true loss in today's divided political climate. There will never be anyone else like him.

    Old punx never die.

    [dropcap size=big]I[/dropcap]n the few hours I spent with him, I immediately knew he was brilliant, profane, and hilarious. And that he had one of the biggest hearts I'd ever meet. Right after we stopped shooting our segment, we made small talk and he asked me if I had any children. He said being a dad was his greatest joy, and nothing made him happier than making pancakes for his daughter and her friends whenever they had a sleepover at his place. Can't get manlier than that.

    Via CNN.

    [dropcap size=big]I[/dropcap] remember when I took my first months long road trip across the U.S. I was in my early 20s and nervous as hell. I was just a poor kid from LA with a plan to drive back west from New York to Philly to DC to Memphis to New Orleans to Austin and back to LA. These were places I had heard of and read all about but never could have imagined myself experiencing. But then there was  Anthony Bourdain.

    Through his writing and his show “No Reservations”, he was able to show me (and I say me because it felt so very personal) that the best way to experience a city and connect with its culture is through it’s food. And I so I got to see this beautiful country that my parents fought so hard to get to, and for the first time feel like it was a real place with real people. This trip changed my life and I don’t think I would have done it if it weren’t for Anthony Bourdain.

    [dropcap size=big]I[/dropcap] remember when he came to L.A. recently to do his show. Right after Dump’s election. The politics behind that episode were undeniably "pro-immigrant." “Toño” Bourdain, as Gustavo Arellano affectionately calls him, made "our" Los Angeles shine: the cooks, the service industry, the mothers in the kitchen, the histories, the gente who grow, prepare, make, and serve our daily comida. This is what Mexican food is. Anthony Bourdain saw them, and he sees us, and that episode was such a necessary counter-narrative intervention in this racist and specifically anti-Mexican discourse and BS we hear every day from this administration and the media.

    The first thing I think about are AB's politics, how humble he was when he knew he had something to learn from the people and places he visited. I remember when he was coming to town to film his show. They used Eastside Luv during MorrisseyOke, and there was such excitement and pride that Bourdain's crew were coming to film us. I'm intimately connected with that space and event. Bourdain's cameras weren't the first to come into MozOke, but I'd say his cameras were the one that mattered most because of the context of the show and the moment in which it was filmed. I was excited to see the footage air, and I admit, I felt so much pride. While I had/have my feminist critiques of that particular L.A. episode, I can't deny the power of Bourdain's impact on our little corner of East LA: he was the rare celebrity chef-writer-tv star and cultural figure who understood the privilege and the power he had to expose people to critical thinking in relation to food, power, global politics, and racial difference. We will miss him.

    [dropcap size=big]W[/dropcap]ell, I’m just pissed. I didn’t have a personal relationship with Bourdain—I wrote for Parts Unknown, Roads & Kingdoms and consulted on some shows. Bourdain and Jose Andres are the only chefs that stood up for Mexican cooks, which are the engine of the entire restaurant industry. I feel that the ugliness of what America is right now has been absorbed by our warriors, like Bourdain, because he cared.

    I’m mad, today, at all he fucking chefs who employ Latinos, rely on our work, yet they are silent while Trump and his supporters ravage is, lock our children in cages and encourage violence against us. I’m sad for his family and friends and I’m sad for us.

    [dropcap size=big]I[/dropcap] wish I had gotten around to meeting Bourdain. It didn't happen. All I know is, I knew always that we'd have a great time if we ever hung out. I think everyone deep down thinks that way, and that was the crux of this man's magic.

    Bourdain is an inspiration and a hero for me and ... I just think we really needed him right now. Huge, huge loss.

    RELATED: RIP Anthony Bourdain ~ Chef Who Brought 'Parts Unknown' to the World Dead at 61

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