”Do we really want to travel in hermetically sealed popemobiles through the rural provinces of France, Mexico and the Far East, eating only in Hard Rock Cafes and McDonalds? Or do we want to eat without fear, tearing into the local stew, the humble taqueria’s mystery meat, the sincerely offered gift of a lightly grilled fish head? I know what I want. I want it all. I want to try everything once.”
Bourdain sat down for a meal with President Barack Obama in a 2016 episode of his CNN series Parts Unknown in Vietnam, where said he would never do the same with Donald J. Trump in a Trump Hotel restaurant. Ever.
”I will never eat in his restaurant. Donald Trump and food? I think the answer’s kind of obvious there. You know, somebody with, you know, really trashy fast food tastes. And zero concern about the health or authenticity. I really can’t think of a single chef, who, no matter what their crimes, I don’t think they deserve Donald Trump.”
Obama reacted to the news of Bourdain’s unexpected death on Friday, saying:
“He taught us about food, but more importantly, about its ability to bring us together.”
In that memorable episode of the show, Obama sat down to eat with Bourdain at Bun Cha Huong Lien restaurant in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi’s leafy Old Quarter.
On Friday, Obama shared a photo on Twitter of the meal they shared, saying that it is how he will always remember one of America’s best storytellers, writers and chefs. Obama’s tweet:
“Low plastic stool, cheap but delicious noodles, cold Hanoi beer. This is how I’ll remember Tony…”
The men shared a simple meal of pork noodles and fried spring rolls, each dish costing about $3 and two bottles of beer, no glasses, and the photos of the casual dinner quickly went viral.
Bourdain and Obama proved in their televised meal, being a proud American doesn’t have to mean you’re a close-minded nativist. Being American isn’t about the national anthem, white superiority, or witch hunts. Like Obama, Bourdain possessed that a rare ability to make those in his presence feel good about themselves. Like Obama, Bourdain saw things and met people and shared conversations that most Americans will never get to experience. That is why I love Bourdain. He allowed me to visit and absorb cultures that I will never get to in my lifetime. And they both represent America at its best.
Remembering the meal, Bourdain told Anderson Cooper:
“I’ve never seen a guy enjoy a cold beer and a low plastic stool more than President Obama, by the way.”
Bourdain talked extensively about his use of drugs and addiction to heroin earlier in his life. He took his own life while in France filming an episode of his Emmy Award-winning show.
Read World of Wonder writer Trey Speegle’s remembrance here.