MUMBAI – Anthony Bourdain developed an affinity for Indian vegetarian food and was curious about recipes, says Indian chef Vikas Khanna, for whom the late American star chef was a hero.
Bourdain was found dead in Paris on Friday.
Recounting his memories, Khanna said: “We worked together many times. I’m so heartbroken. Anthony was my hero. I looked up to him and was privileged to have bonded with him. He hated vegetarian food. I told him until he visits India he wouldn’t know the pleasures of vegetarian cuisine.”
Khanna had first met Bourdain while doing a tasting menu with mangoes at his mid-town restaurant Purnima in New York.
“I did not get a chance to talk to him then. The second time we met, I cooked for him at the Rubin Museum. I told him that I was researching extensively on Himalayan foods, ‘Utsav’ and creating Holy Kitchens documentaries. He just said one thing, ‘Keep pushing the limits’.
“Later, he was hosting CNN’s ‘Parts Unknown’ in India and he wanted me to travel to Punjab with him to show him my hometown. I could not travel to India at that time. But I was so happy that he started loving Indian vegetarian food and asked me for recipes which were eventually used on the show.”
Khanna reckoned that there are many pressures on a chef’s life that could have killed Bourdain.
“There is a lot of drug usage, time management issues…. Small spaces to cook in. Michelin pressure. Fire hazards. Customer service issues. Health and mental hygiene issues. Nepotism. Demanding critics. Labour issues. Emotional distress and breakdowns. Standard consistency. Long hours… Oh, being a chef is not an easy job.
“People only see the food on the table, not the fire in the kitchen. I have seen individuals of great skill go down in a jiffy. It’s the curse of those who are in the quest of perfection. Sorry if I’ve said too much. I idolized Anthony. I can’t believe he’s gone.”