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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 a work in progress. Me and the CNN Food Guy Hi!" "Hello." "A, B, C or K. Pick a letter... Call me “hippy-dippy”, but yeah, it was about sharing. I was holding a two-tiered, lacquered Chinese basket containing four items. Mr. Bourdain 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'd finally met Mr. Bourdain, I HAD RAN to get the basket and RUN back. The security officers surrounding Mr. Bourdain looked at me like I was a domestic terrorist. “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. I had been told 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 problem/post 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.