Anthony Bourdain/Stephen Black/Street Food/An Embarrassing Encounter

The World Street Food Congress is again happening in Singapore. It seems as though Mr. Bourdain is not attending this time. What follows is something I first posted on Scribd, shortly after the first WSFC.

Me and the CNN Famous Food Guy (A few thoughts)

It was about sharing. Yeah, call me “hippy-dippy”. I brought stuff to give him. I had a two-tiered, lacquered Chinese basket containing four items, labeled A, B, C and K. Mr. Bourdain first picked ‘K.’ He was in a good mood at first. K was a package of kueh dar dar, from Galicier in Tiong Bahru, the best Peranakan pastry shop in the world.

Suddenly: A. Problem.

Before I finally met Mr. Bourdain, I RAN to get the basket and RAN back. To the security officers surrounding Mr. Bourdain, my running with the food basket was an act of domestic terrorism.

“Pick another letter,” I blurted. My voice cracked. The thick-armed security guard moved between Mr. Bourdain and me.

Everyone in Mr. Bourdain’s entourage rolled their eyes. “Another guy who wants something,” they said, without saying a word. Another guard barked, “You should leave now.” He wore black gloves.

I reached into the basket and gave Mr. Bourdain ‘C’. He and his group walked away. It was over in less than 30 seconds. Mr. Bourdain’s management had said we’d have two minutes.

Earlier in the day, the staff of the World Streetfood Congress told me where Mr. Bourdain was eating. I saw him enjoying himself as he strolled around after he ate. Should I have approached him then? No. I had been told by the Singapore Tourist Bureau/Makansutra (the organizers) that I would have quality time with “Tony”. My two minutes were to be part of the press conference/book signing.

It turned out to be the first book signing I’ve ever attended where books were not on sale. I didn’t have a book. This meant that it could be strange to stand in line. I quickly described my situation to Mr. Bourdain’s assistant and things seemed cool.I’d just meet Tony after the book signing.

Back to the basket. ‘A’ was a pack of ang ku kueh. The Chinese pastries were made by one of Singapore’s most highly regarded kueh-making families. However, these kuehs were artworks; all were shaped like my thumb.

‘B’ was my best-selling book, i ate tiong bahru. I am the publisher. The sequel is about 70% completed. Mr. Bourdain has his own publishing imprint under Harper-Collins. The rights to iatb could easily be purchased. And I have ideas for other books: my favorite eating and drinking places in Fukushima, Sri Lanka’s overfishing and tsunami-related challenges, the Hungry Ghost Festival in Tiong Bahru, my mom’s 40 year + tradition of making Christmas candy with her best friend, the legendary steam punk coffee roaster of Natchez, Mississippi, and more…

I had encountered Mr. Bourdain once before, at the Les Halles restaurant in the late 80s/early 90s. I was there with a very good friend. We didn’t eat or drink; something about somebody had to “meet a guy.” Something like that.

So… my brief encounters with the host of Parts Unknown. Despite the security guards and the chaos, Mr. Bourdain picked and received ‘C’, ‘C’a bootleg CD of Christmas music sung by Joey Ramone at his last concert.

Cultural identity

Edible sculptures by Stephen Black. Traditional Chinese ang ku kueh shaped like a thumbprint

3 Responses to Anthony Bourdain/Stephen Black/Street Food/An Embarrassing Encounter

  1. Approaching celebrities should be done with caution, as they are likely to
    have a bodyguard or strong animal, like a woofer or a warthog. You can
    ignore this advice if you are a robot or somehow indestructible.
    Celebrities rarely leave their homes, though, preferring to sit around at
    home, doing nothing. However, they crave attention, and will sometimes
    suddenly rush out into the street. So when you are driving your cart, please
    look out for them and try not to bump it.

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