09 Jun2018

The news of Anthony Bourdain’s passing is simply devastating. And the outpouring of global empathy is a testament to a person that had so much more impact on people than I am guessing he gave himself credit for. My hope is that he is at peace now, and whatever demons he was wrestling with, they are no longer hounding him. I only spent a day (but clearly a very significant day it turns out) with him in late 2008, but the impact of his visit was to have dramatic and lasting effect… Dozens of folks, readers, IG followers have sent private messages of shock, sorrow, condolences, commiseration, etc. and I am frankly unsure how to feel about all of it except to say it is with the deepest of sadness that Mr. Bourdain has passed away in this manner. If anything useful is to come from this, it is to take note when someone close to you seems to be despairing, in need of help or just needs a shoulder to lean on.

I remember the day I fielded a call from Mr. Bourdain like it was yesterday, not nearly a decade ago. The rest, they say, is lechon history. But it started out as nothing more as an extension of this blog, my “Lechon Chronicles” and a desire to assist anyone understand our food better and to promote Filipino cuisine to a global audience. I have written several posts on the matter from October 2008 onwards, and here are links to all the relevant posts. They are lengthy, but worth reading if you are curious and new to the blog or have just arrived at it from Instagram, etc. There was a time when people’s attention spans lasted longer than 5 seconds…

The series of posts on the “Lechon Chronicles” detailed my pre-Bourdain quest to re-create my grandmother’s Cebu lechon, devoid of MSG and shortcuts that have in my opinion, plagued more modern versions of a several centuries old local delicacy… In chronological order, here are the posts:

#1 : The Lechon Chronicles, Chapter 1 : The Lechonan
#2 : The Lechon Chronicles, Chapter 2 : The Ideal Piggy
#3 : The Lechon Chronicles, Chapter 3 : The Fat Run (Lechon Round 1)
#4 : Lechon: Round 2
#5 : Lechon : Round 3
#6 : Lechon : Round 4
#7 : Lechon : Round 5

These were the posts that Mr. Bourdain’s producers and researchers read BEFORE they contacted me for help with their upcoming episode though I had NO IDEA who they were, the emails did not disclose the show or the host, I just wanted to help in any way I could to help promote Pinoy food to a foreign audience. After I spoke to Mr. Bourdain on the phone, where he asked me to cook lechons for him, despite my protestations that I wasn’t a chef or that I could take him to all the local purveyors and we could try a variety of lechons, we set a date and I had just then realized “Tony” was Anthony Bourdain, and I had just committed to host one of the most iconic food traveler/writer/chefs on TV at the time.

Two weeks of frenzied preparations (including the planting of an instant garden) led to the actual day of filming, and here are posts from that period…

#8 : The First Hint of things to come, after frantic landscaping efforts
#9 : The “nerves” two days before the shoot
#10 : One Sentence that says it all — and which was life changing for me
#11 : The prep before the shoot
#12 : Preparations the day before the shoot
#13 : Anthony Bourdain in Cebu, Philippines

I was self-imposing a a limited release of information about the shoot at this point, I didn’t want to pre-empt the program that was airing a few months later… Then 4 months later, when the episode finally aired, these were the posts:

#14 : A Reminder that the episode was about to air in the U.S. on February 16, 2009
#15 : Now Showing – with the most hilarious comments section with blow by blow comments of the program for folks in the Philippines who couldn’t see it… PRICELESS POST.
#16 : The Full Menu
#17 : Why I thought Augusto was my hero, in defense of all those back-stabbing crab-mentality pinoys with armchair opinions worth caca
#18 : Behind the Scenes, what it took to pull off the day of filming/shoot with OC-like intensity – lots of candid photos of the shoot here
#19 : An Amusing Side Story…
#20 : Hierarchy of Pork, our lechon tops it!

And that, was that. Realize that ZUBUCHON did NOT EXIST when we fed Mr. Bourdain, that came much later, nearly a year later, and we asked and received his permission to use his quote “Best Pig, Ever!”. As with all superlatives, one would think the sentiment would be topped or eclipsed in the many trips and episodes Mr. Bourdain has shot since. But over the next ten years, he would repeatedly refer to his lechon experience in Cebu with fondness, and for that, we continue to be ever grateful. Why one person’s opinion matters any is linked to the credibility, integrity and expertise of that individual. So while we definitely think it is a personal opinion, it’s a nice personal opinion from a great person with the highest degree of food integrity, in MY opinion. :) Here are some quotes from him since the shoot in 2008…

In February 2009 on his blog, Bourdain wrote : “…and special shout out to MarketMan — whose preparations for the Cebu lechon extravaganza made the filming of Apocalypse Now look quick and easy.”

On the hierarchy of pork he’s eaten around the world: “Puerto Rico’s lechon is great. In Bali, the lechon is even better. And in the Philippines, the lechon is slightly better than that. It’s the best of the best.“
Anthony Bourdain, October 2009
Interview by Frank Bruni of the New York Times
Food & Wine Magazine Blog

“…it doesn’t get better than that…”
(referring to the roast pig he ate in Cebu)
Anthony Bourdain, 2013
Interview in Promo clip for Parts Unknown, CNN

Spoken in his Parts Unknown Episode filmed in Manila in 2016 : “I had really fond memories of the last time I had lechon in the Philippines. In fact, not to kiss your ass, but it is the finest pig I’ve ever had.”

In June 2017, Manila, interviewed by ABS-CBN : “My first truly transcendent great whole roasted pig, the best lechon I ever had in my life was that time in Cebu.”

All we set out to do was to host a foreign guest and show him the best we had to offer and make a good impression. We did our best. And boy did he reciprocate in a manner we would never have ever expected. A good LASTING impression is something you only dream about. We are so very, very grateful. And we will miss him.

 

COMMENTS:

  1. Osay says:

    You were the first site I looked for when I found out the news. Thank you for sharing this experience with us. An avid fan of your blog.

    Jun 10, 2018 | 12:10 am

     
  2. Filman Santiago says:

    I still have to read those links one by one but yup, Anthony Bourdain was just being brutally honest about your lechon. With all those ingredients you had there in the belly and the evenly red, crispy skin? Whew, no doubt the best in the world! That is why when there’s a kabayan who goes back to Dubai from vacation, I always ask to bring zubu chon, for our pulutan ug siyempre para Apil nas sud an. ? When Mr Bourdain also said, “Filipino cuisine is the next big thing?” Is actually a big thing for us.

    Jun 10, 2018 | 12:27 am

     
  3. Apicio says:

    Great tribute for a great friend.

    Jun 10, 2018 | 12:31 am

     
  4. millet says:

    He was a decent human being, above all. I still cannot believe he’s gone forever. Now I want to watch again all the episodes of all the seasons of his two shows.

    Jun 10, 2018 | 12:51 am

     
  5. Footloose says:

    This was the most recent holiday greetings you got from me which incidentally was mostly about AB, all of which still hold true on his sad passing:

    Hello Marketman,

    Don’t know if you’ve seen this https://goo.gl/TtRtxj but being a lifelong reader of The New Yorker and knowing Anthony Bourdain only from snippets of his programs from Youtube, I find this interview quite riveting in its honesty. Notice too how he quiets down and gets emotional when speaking of his Vietnamese meal with Obama.

    It gives us a glimpse of the person he is, intelligent and articulate, opinionated and straightforward, funny and receptive to new experiences. I think your pigs are quite fortunate in having been the recipient of encomium from this admirable fellow.

    Cheers,

    Footloose

    Jun 10, 2018 | 1:06 am

     
  6. Ej says:

    Thank you for sharing these posts again. We will all remember AB with fondness.

    Jun 10, 2018 | 3:09 am

     
  7. marilen rodriguez says:

    Thank you for great recap. so many tributes from high and low for beloved Anthony Bourdain but for many of us it is this “we lost a friend we never met.”

    Jun 10, 2018 | 3:40 am

     
  8. Gigi says:

    Thank you for sharing. Very sad at how he passed.

    Jun 10, 2018 | 8:04 am

     
  9. gaye says:

    It is indeed like losing a friend we’ve never met, as Marilen has succinctly said in her comment. Mr. Bourdain has shared so much and opened the world to us with his quick wit and unadulterated frankness. He will truly be missed.

    Jun 10, 2018 | 8:33 am

     
  10. maricel pangilinan-arenas says:

    thank you for sharing this, Mr Binamira.

    i never met him, but Mr Bourdain seemed genuine, the real deal. a man with a mission, hungry and insightful, game to pursue, to explore, to share, to taste, to savor, to chew on everything life had to offer. he opened doors and windows to so much more than just food for me. the openness and respect he accorded people who served hin, the ear he gave to those who broke bread and everything else with him throughout his life. thankful for his life, grateful to have been a witness, and i pray the good Lord grant him and all who loved him most deeply find comfort and peace. he is beloved and he will be missed.

    Jun 10, 2018 | 8:44 am

     
  11. Lilibeth says:

    When the news came out, we were devastated and I quickly checked your blog to find out what you have written coz I know you were also fond of him. My daughter actually is the most devastated coz she met him at a book signing event here in LA where she lined up for 3 hours. She said he was very friendly and she asked him when he was going to the Philippines and he said a lot of people have asked him that and then my daughter encouraged him by saying so many nice things about the Philippines and he told her he might just go before the year ends and then it really did happen before the year ended. My daughter even told him that her birthday is also June just like him and then he said – so I’ll write happy birthday. He will be missed. We love his show.

    Jun 10, 2018 | 11:53 am

     
  12. Rochelle says:

    this post makes me cry, MM! Truly shocked to hear the news of his passing. I wouldn’t have stumbled upon Zubuchon if not for Mr Bourdain. Thank you for this MM.

    Jun 10, 2018 | 3:06 pm

     
  13. farida says:

    Thought of you right away when i heard the sad news the other day. Rest in peace Anthony Bourdain.

    Jun 10, 2018 | 10:01 pm

     
  14. Alilay says:

    travel channel is showing this episode right now. We lost a family member even though he doesn’t know us.

    Jun 11, 2018 | 2:36 am

     
  15. NidaFe Ortego says:

    HGTV is paying homage to Tony and had just finished running the “best pig ever” episode. I met Tony a few years before he became really big and was instantly wowed by his brilliant mind, his kindness, his insight into how food connects us all. I am immensely heartbroken and like you and everyone else he touched and inspired, I will forever have a special fondness for him.

    Jun 11, 2018 | 4:04 am

     
  16. Poch Bermudez says:

    You’re as authentic as Mr. Bourdain, MM. I think it’s a rare virtue now that all these sellout blogger sorely lack. Good thing Tony ended up with you! Been following you for almost a decade now, and you’re still the most legit! :) Keep up the great work, please!

    Jun 11, 2018 | 12:04 pm

     
  17. jr says:

    MM,

    I’m still shocked and offered a prayer for his soul eternal repose. May he rest in peace. He has this care free mentality, brutally honest and he kept things simple. I saw him in an event in 2016 at the Pantages Theater and it was an enlightening experience. He asked what makes you happy and what do you cook to eat.

    Thank you!

    Jr.

    Jun 12, 2018 | 12:56 am

     
  18. jdawgg says:

    Thank you Marketman

    Jun 21, 2018 | 4:02 am

     

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