Anthony Bourdain introduced us almost 20 years ago to Systeme D, the crisis procedures in the best kitchens that get the chef out of a jam. I was eager to interview him not least because all three of my daughters were circling around the food biz – one to be a celebrated chef herself. What the veteran Bourdain made clear was that the great restaurant kitchens depend not so much on Escoffier schooling as on the wily immigrant dishwasher who can disappear into the night on orders and come back in an hour with a pound of foie gras when only a miracle will do.
It’s a comfort of sorts today to recall the introduction I cobbled together on the radio in June, 2000:
As Anthony Bourdain writes, restaurant kitchens are filled with hard-working psychopaths, misfits and other crazies, the kind of people you’d want to have at your side in a war.
To people who love the business of cooking it feels like a warm bath.To an outsider watching meal preparation at Les Halles restaurant on Park Avenue South in New York where Anthony Bourdain is the chef, it could look like triage.The scene is a quick-moving mass of pans, slippery hands holding sharp knives, hot plates and slips of paper; six burners going at once, dishwashers up to their ears in serving plates and utensils.The discourse is not the stuff of family radio, but it may have something to do with feeding a hungry public.Connection listeners, who knows this world of talented throat-cutters and fire-starters, hooligans?Did you ever work in the restaurant business and come to miss the night life, the swearing, the immigrant culture so much that you’re ready again to quit your desk job?
God rest dear Anthony Bourdain. He’s wonderful listening still.