Of course, I still have Anthony Bourdain on my mind but we covered the serious stuff so it’s time to do something I think he would appreciate I will share one his recipes and tell a humorous story involving chefs. The recipe is Laksa, a very popular soup in Southeast Asia. Once you eat it you will reconsider your obsession with Pho.
The story involves me making an ass of myself not once, not twice but three times. A special trait I have carried my whole life is to be able to make a complete ass of myself on a regular basis.
As a bartender in the French Quarter, a good portion of my late night regulars were made up of restaurant staff and of course, my favorites customers were the kitchen staff. Every night the same haggard crews, dressed in their chef's jackets came rolling in. They always ordered a beer and shot, then settled in to shoot the shit about the night's service. One night, a new addition showed up. A harsh looking middle age man with a strangely clean chefs jacket. He sits at the empty end of the bar and orders a beer. He just sat their quietly, slowly sipping his beer. Of course, this peaked my interest. Who was this strange lone wolf cook? I started in with the usual bartender-client conversation. How’s your night going? Where you from? All the old faithfuls. I always considered it a personal mission to get my shy patrons to open up. I was going to get him to smile and come out of that grumpy shell.
I came up with a brilliant plan. I would bond over some things I had learned from overhearing cooks for almost decade. I ask him, “So what’s up with head chefs?” And then proceed to not let him answer. Instead go on one of my ramblings, smart ass rants. “Why are they always so full of themselves? Walking around insisting everyone call them Chef. Acting like they are anointed by God and everyone must kiss their feet and proclaim their greatness. Treating their cooks like degenerate, lazy, assholes, while standing around, barking orders, instead of jumping in and helping. They are too good for that now?” I finally shut my trap and he’s just looking at me eyebrow cocked up. Not the reaction I was expecting. The door opens, breaking the silence and my haggard kitchen crew comes rolling in. Before I can say anything they head right over to the bar and start patting this man on the back, “Hey Chef, so glad you finally came out for a drink.”
He looks at me as if to say, “You were saying...” I stuttered, “I’m such an asshole. They didn’t say that. That was other guys. Not your guys. They only say the best about you. I’m sorry. I should learn to shut my mouth. It’s me not them. I just like to make an ass out myself as much as possible.”
He took it well and kept my secret, I even got a little chuckle out of him and he got a good amount of free drinks out of me.
"Ugh, I really am a giant asshole, I don’t know how to stop it."
He didn’t visit often. He was one of those weird responsible people that like to get a good night's sleep and be rested for work. A year later he’s having one of his occasional cocktails while I’m enjoying some leftovers from a new restaurant around the corner. A benefit of having a lot of restaurant workers as regulars is they bring you good food. Chef noticed the name on the box and asked me, “How is it?” Not a strange question coming from someone who works for the competition. “It’s good. I would never buy it for myself though.” “Why’s that,” he asks. I happily answer - “It’s too damn expensive for what you get. Why am I going to pay you 30 bucks for a plate of food that wouldn’t feed a toddler? It’s $5.00 for the food the other $25.00 is for all the pretentious bullshitO only tourists would fall for that scam.”
He cocks his eyebrow up. I’ve seen that look before. What did I do now? This is his competition he should be happy with my negative review. “You know I opened my own restaurant,” he said. Cue the awkward silence as I sit there with the fancy take-out box. I asked, already knowing the answer, “It’s this one isn’t it?” He nods, yes.
I did it again. I stuck my foot so far in my mouth I was tickling his food with my toes. “Ugh, I really am a giant asshole, I don’t know how to stop it. It’s like I’m addicted to saying the wrong thing to the wrong person,” I apologize. He laughs and says, “Well I can always come to visit you when my head gets too big. You will make sure to deflate me in seconds.”
At least I am of some use. If you feel like being insulted on one your proudest achievements here I am.
Fast forward a year later and I am the one getting waited on. There was a new diner type restaurant that opened and I was intrigued. They even had a boudin dish on the menu. This Cajun girl would do anything for a bite of good boudin. My entree arrives and I’m beyond excited to dig in. One bite and a great sadness enveloped me. It wasn’t good boudin. It was sub-par at best. I can’t eat food I don’t like so I just scraped off the offensive boudin and ate what was left. The waitress notices my large uneaten portion and asks, “Was everything okay?” I didn’t want to be rude but I also think a restaurant should know something is wrong so they have a chance to fix it. I explain to her that it wasn’t good boudin and I’m not trying to get a free meal or be a jerk. I grew up in "Boudin Country" and I knew what it’s supposed to taste like. She apologized and offered a replacement. I turn her down and say, "it’s okay I just wanted to let you know." As she leaves she promises me she will let the Chef know. I watch her head to the counter with the plate in hand and walk up to a man in chef's jacket and proceed to talk to him and point to my table. He looks up and it’s him. It'shim, damn it! What the hell is going on? How does this even happen three fucking times? He sees me and his annoyed face immediately breaks out into laughter. Thoroughly confusing not only the waitress but my fellow table mates as well. He heads over, stands at my table and says, “Oh Jolie like I said at least I always have you to keep me humble. You are staying and eating something else. You owe me at least that.”
I did have a great meal and made sure to tell everyone I knew that they need to go there. I was trying to even out my karma. Maybe if I got a 100 people to not be an asshole it would negate my excessive penchant for it.
I haven’t run into him since then but I am sure If I do it will be right after I insult him.