‘He was one for the first people to truly see food as a way to understand the world,’ remembers Goulding, who published several books with the late celebrity chef
Matt Goulding knew his 3 a.m. email to Anthony Bourdain proposing another book about Italian food was a long shot. Then the unthinkable happened.
“He got back to me in 20 minutes with an extraordinary response,” Goulding told Moneyish.
Goulding, the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Roads & Kingdoms, a website with international food, travel and political stories, met Bourdain in 2010 while he was profiling the Spanish chef José Andrés, who happened to be filming “No Reservations,” Bourdain’s travel and food show. Three years later, Goulding pitched a book series, and Bourdain got on board as the publisher for his books “Rice, Noodle, Fish” and “Grape, Olive, Pig,” also deciding to invest in Roads & Kingdoms, where he became the editor-at-large. The duo went on to collaborate on Explore Parts Unknown, the digital website for Bourdain’s award-winning CNN travel show.
Before his third book in the series, “Pasta, Pane, Vino” came to fruition, Bourdain and Goulding exchanged emails earlier this year about the juxtaposition of age-old Italian culinary traditions — Nonna’s egg-rich pastas and slow-simmered sauces, for example — with the trendy evolution of wood-fired Neapolitan pizza, carbonara and mozzarella from next-generation chefs. But Bourdain firmly believed Italian food should be experienced “like a child, never like a critic, never analytically,” he wrote in the emails. He hated the idea of change when it came to Italian food or cooking, because he loved the way things already were — having the same waiter at a restaurant in Rome for more than two decades, small menus, simple sauces. Ultimately, though, Bourdain decided to publish the book, which came out days after his death on June 8. Their back-and-forth email banter became the foreword to the book.
Goulding says while the book is an ode to Italy, it now takes on more of a sentimental meaning, as a tribute to his dear friend’s legacy of storytelling — and seeing food as not just sustenance, but as a gateway to people and their politics around the world.
“He was one for the first people to truly see food as a way to understand the world,” Goulding said of his friend of eight years. “His ultimate gift to the world was empathy. He made us a more empathetic country — especially in the U.S. — but really a more empathic world by showing us all different sides to the world’s great cultures. That was the jumping off point [for the book].”
Bourdain taught the world the importance of travel and tolerance for other people and cultures on his award-winning CNN show, “Parts Unknown,” which was scheduled to leave Netflix on June 16 but will now extend its licensing agreement for additional months. Whether he was eating grilled pork and noodles in Hanoi with former President Obama; making budae-jjigae stew in Seoul; or partaking in the Cajun Mardi Gras’ boisterously tasty traditions in New Orleans, people who came along for the delicious ride devoured his lessons.
While losing someone you admire and love is never easy, Goulding acknowledged, he said he believes Bourdain’s death hit especially hard because “Tony” felt more like a friend, even to people who’d never met him.
“People are having a hard time with it because everyone felt like they knew Tony, and the reason why they feel like that is because over the years we’ve shared hundreds of meals with him. One of the most intimate acts we can do is break bread together,” said Goulding. “We broke bread with Tony for 42 minutes on Sundays, or whenever you watched his shows. It made people who didn’t know him on a personal level feel very, very touched by his passing. The world is processing with that type of connection, which is a rare one these days.”
Goulding says he learned from Bourdain how to tell stories without thinking about who your audience is, or how they’ll respond to your work.
“Tony always said, ‘Never ask yourself, “Who is this for?” The second that you ask yourself “Who is this for?” — whether you’re writing or creating anything — you’ve already lost. You make something the way you want to make it, and if that world wants it they’ll take it,’” Goulding said. “He’s one of the few people out there who made a career out of that philosophy.”
While the duo never quite made it to Italy together, Goulding says he’ll never forget a favorite meal they shared in Catalonia, Spain, on the Costa Brava, where Bourdain visited on “No Reservations” to cook and dine at the three-Michelin starred restaurant El Bulli before it closed in 2011.
“We wanted to go back and spend some time in some of his favorite corners in what became my adopted country,” Goulding recalled. “We drove the coast to the beach where El Bulli is located; a tiny little coastal stretch. The famous Spanish chef brothers hosted us on the beach and made this beautiful feast of Spanish red shrimp seared on the plancha that we ate with nothing but salt, and a monkfish stew made by these incredible chefs.
“Those guys have been friends with Tony for 20 years,” he added. “To see that friendship, that bond, and to share that over a beautiful meal with the sun setting in the background, was a gorgeous scene and an incredible moment.”
© 2018 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved