It’s been over four years since the death of big-time Hawaii fan Anthony Bourdain. The chef, television star, and author was among the world’s most renowned and influential chefs and celebrities. Tony visited and covered Hawaii with great respect, love, and admiration, albeit far from his native New York.
Hawaii: It’s Main Street America in so many ways. It’s also deliriously, deliciously, not American at all…. people who navigated their way across the Pacific and settled the islands. — Anthony Bourdain.
We all have our own reasons we love Hawaii, and they are diverse. Hawaii Fan Anthony Bourdain waxed poetically about Hawaii, most famously in his 2015 episode of Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown, which you can watch below. Previously he had covered Hawaii in a 2008 episode of his “No Reservations” show which aired on The Travel Channel. In that episode, he shopped at one of our favorite Honolulu stores, Bailey’s Aloha Shirts on Kapahulu street, ate at Puka Dog, Ono Hawaiian, and enjoyed another BOH dining favorite to this day, Side Street Inn. He also shared the experience of his first luau.
Anthony’s favorite place in the islands was Molokai.
It’s a place always near and dear to your BOH editors too. He said of Molokai, these are “exactly the kind of people we need to save us all from the worst of “progress.” We need people like that in post-Bloomberg New York. Bubba Gump and The Guy Fieri Dome would have never dared to soil my beloved city. In short, paradise.”
Molokai: I was treated with enormous kindness and generosity everywhere I went—nowhere more so than Molokai. My ignorance and naive preconceptions tolerated with patience and good grace. This is one haole who feels very, very honored, and grateful for the many kindnesses shown me. — Anthony Bourdain.
Anthony Bourdain was way ahead of his time in so many ways. He is fondly remembered here in paradise.
Among the things that amazed him in Hawaii were watching humpback whales and, of course, the unique food cultures of Hawaii. He extolled it as a place “where a gentleman such as myself might spend the rest of his years, padding about in a sarong, smoking extravagantly good weed, eating pig in many delicious, delicious forms.”
Hawaii: Those of us who were not born in Hawaii, who do not live there, can be forgiven, I hope, for imagining it a paradise. It has been sold as such to many a generation of white guys of a certain age: warm, “exotic,” festooned with palm trees both real and on shirts, populated (the brochures would have you believe) by friendly musicians, brimming with the spirit of aloha and dusky-skinned women who dance a lot. — Anthony Bourdain
He also saw other sides of Hawaii, once pointing out that “young Hawaiians are finding it nearly impossible to find affordable housing in the communities they were born in. Or noting that traffic gets worse every year… It’s not a particularly welcoming or friendly part of the world. Contrary to—sort of—the ‘aloha’ myth.”
Perhaps prescient, he said, he was having “a hard time seeing anything but gin-clear water, green mountains, and the kind of place we’d like to die. Perhaps drifting off in a hammock, maybe with the sound of ukuleles in the distance. The only immediate sign of death is the shaker glass full of Mai Tai that falls from our liver-spotted hand.”
Of food in Hawaii, he waxed poetic about Spam musubi, saying, “does mutated, cargo cult cuisine get any better? Spam noodles? Chicken katsu with potato macaroni salad?” And of Hawaii’s Kalua Pig cooked in an imu, he said it “is, unsurprisingly, particularly delicious. But it’s the beef patty with shiny gravy, the mash-ups of Japanese and American diner, Filipino and Vietnamese that make me happiest.” He also adored plate lunches he found on Maui.
Bourdain’s Love of Maui.
“Maui is an island as beautiful as it gets. And, sure, it’s got its share of portion-controlled cruise-line entertainments, doled-out, and digestible bites, and complimentary mai tais. But you’ll also find a sort of beloved institution like Tasty Crust—as local a place as you’re likely to find.”
This is one haole who feels very, very honored and grateful for the many kindnesses shown me. — Anthony Bourdain
Photo courtesy of CNN