Bourdain's bittersweet Caribbean run

BY HOWARD CAMPBELL
Observer senior writer

Saturday, June 09, 2018

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Anthony Bourdain, the American celebrity chef who gained international fame through his Parts Unknown series on CNN, committed suicide in Strasbourg, France, Friday. His popular show, a ratings winner for the cable network, focused on food throughout the world.

Bourdain, who was 61, reportedly hanged himself in a hotel room.

Being a man of food, he was comfortable savouring the most exotic menus whether in a four-star locale or a streetside eatery. He did just that when he visited Jamaica for a show that aired in March 2015.

He lounged with Island Records founder Chris Blackwell at historic GoldenEye in St Mary, went to Winifred Beach in Portland and chatted with restaurateur sisters Suzanne and Michelle Rousseau about seafood Jamaican style.

“Sun, sand and sea is a delicious recipe by its very nature. Add a plate of ackee and salt fish, a traditional Jamaican dish of the creamy, savoury ackee fruit and rehydrated dried fish, and you're well on the way to concocting paradise. A splash of rum won't hurt to add to the mix, either. Or, for the braver souls, a generous shot of the liquor in a Red Stripe beer for a local fisherman's drink called a steel bottom”, Bourdain said of his Jamaica soirée.

He added: “For the rum drinker's benefit, Jamaican side dishes can often be starch-heavy: There's roasted or fried breadfruit, plantains, sweet potatoes and yams to accompany hearty oxtail stews, jerk-spiced meats and curry goat, with staples like the leafy green callaloo, coconut rice and field peas rounding out the mix.”

Jamaica got the coveted thumbs-up but Trinidad and Tobago were not too pleased with their less-than scrumptious review.

Parts Unknown: Trinidad and Tobago aired in June last year. While it looked at the country's culinary delights, Bourdain also zoomed in on its seedy side.

According to Opposition senator Daniel Solomon, the series left a bitter taste in T&T mouths.

“His recent documentary on T&T, which should have been an opportunity to showcase local food and culture, unfortunately turned out to be more of a crime documentary on the country. It tended to focus a lot on crime. At the end of it one had to ask, had we not been Trinidadians looking at that video, would we have wanted to come to T&T under those conditions?” Solomon pointed out in an address to the Senate on June 27.

He noted that, “It was a sad indictment on T&T… we have to look at the message we're sending out on behalf of T&T.”

Bourdain, in an interview with CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, was even more uncharitable.

He said there were 460 murders in T&T in 2016 and that its capital Port-of-Spain's murder rate was higher than that of Detroit, Oakland and Chicago.

Solomon conceded that, “The tragic part was a lot of it was accurate. It overshadowed everything beautiful about T&T; the doubles, Carnival, the food, our culture — T&T's beauty.”

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