If I’m in Rome for only 48 hours, I would consider it a sin against God to not eat cacio e pepe, the most uniquely Roman of pastas, in some crummy little joint where Romans eat. I’d much rather do that than go to the Vatican. That’s Rome to me.”
On my first trip to Rome, I made it a point to make reservations at Salumeria Roscioli. I watched Anthony Bourdain on Parts Unknown venture inside the narrow store and indulge in a bowl of cacio e pepe surrounded by aisles of salumi and cheese.
That trip came at a time when I was on the brink of burn out at work and I craved an escape. My remedy was a two-week trip to Italy full of indulgent, soul-fueling experiences. Bowls of cacio e pepe in Campo de Fiore. Sunsets at Piazza Michelangelo with a bottle of wine. Crossing Ponte Vecchio with gelato in hand. Tasting parmiggiano romano, chiantis, and super tuscans in Panzano.
I almost cried when I stepped into Roscioli. I certainly shed a tear after twirling my fork around the most perfect bowl of pasta I can remember in my adult life. “Bourdain brought me here,” I thought to myself. “Everything’s going to be okay.”
Losing Anthony Bourdain feels like losing my first foodie friend. Before there was Instagram and food bloggers, there was Kitchen Confidential, No Reservations, the Layover, and Parts Unknown. He made me realize that I could be unapologetically obsessed with hospitality, food, and travel, and design a life where memorable meals were at the epicenter of my overseas escapades.
In 2016 and 2017 during a period of intense travel and transformation, Anthony Bourdain was the closest thing I had to a spiritual guru. He led me to the best laksa in Malaysia, tacos al pastor in Mexico City, and the Croatian coast where Mediterranean delights like fresh seafood and olive oil were there to greet me. He whisked me away to Spain where I indulged in daily siestas and a summer of tapas in Andalusia.
The pinnacle of that experience was my time in San Sebastian. “Don’t go here,” he jokingly said on Parts Unknown.
I think he was painfully aware that his endorsement would result in a flock of food tourists like myself engulfing an unsuspecting city or street cart. That impact, as demonstrated by stories like this one, changed lives, mine included.
In this first half of 2018, he played a critical role in my Andela onboarding. I watched his episode of Parts Unknown: Lagos as my orientation to the city before going there in January (fun fact: he filmed part of it at Andela!). There were several days on that trip I felt completely overwhelmed – physically tired, emotionally drained, and well outside my comfort zone. I remembered what Bourdain taught me: food is fuel for connectivity, a universal language of understanding and empathy.
I ate eba and jollof rice on the terrace at lunch time with my new co-workers. I ventured to find spicy pepper soup with my new friends. I ate tons of dodo, suya, egusi, and efo riro. The intensity and passion of the city and its people were mirrored in my tastebuds. The more I ate, the more I felt like I understood.
Like countless others, I’m still reeling from the news. As a marketer, Anthony Bourdain inspired me to be a better storyteller, constantly in search of the things that unite our humanity. As a traveler, he made me fearless. He gave me the belief that in all corners of the world, you can make new friends and find the comforts of home, one spoonful at a time. He made me feel proud to be Filipino, a New Yorker, a foodie, a woman. His unapologetic, uncensored, and bold voice will stay with me always – on a plane, in the kitchen, and in perfect meal-time moments, especially twirling forkfuls of cacio e pepe.
“Maybe that’s enlightenment enough: to know that there is no final resting place of the mind; no moment of smug clarity. Perhaps wisdom… is realizing how small I am, and unwise, and how far I have yet to go.” – Anthony Bourdain