Thursday, June 14, 2018

Guest Post: Celebrated Canadian Chef Fred Morin Reflects Darkly Following His Friend Anthony Bourdain's Death

I've had the pleasure of knowing Fred (co-owner/chef at Montreal's Joe Beef, Liverpool House, Le Vin Papillon, and Mon Lapin) since we met on a panel during the 2012 Trottier Symposium. One of the things I never did, but always wanted to, was ask him to let me know when his friend Anthony Bourdain was coming to town as I, like it seems everyone, found Bourdain's authenticity and manner intoxicatingly cool. I didn't ask because it would have been the opposite of cool to do so, I'd have been comparably, insufferably, boring, and it would have overstepped our friendship, and so too, when I heard the news of Bourdain's death, and my mind immediately turned Fred, and I wondered what his thoughts were and how he was doing, I didn't feel it would be appropriate for me to add to his likely large pile of inquiry. All that said, he contacted me a few days later with some dark reflections, and I think they're very much worth reading, even if they may shine a light on things in a manner that is unsettling. People, and life, are complicated.
Recently as I lost a friend, we all lost a hero. Most struggle to grasp why our culinary knights while basking in praises and porcine dripping can still pay rent on such a dark den within the tenements of their souls. Here is a short tale of how and why based on my livings.

There is an ancient proverb that say’s that war killed many folks but not nearly as much as the table!

The chubby teen didn’t attend prom, for a slew of made up reasons, mostly because he was a chubby teen. He failed at getting shit done although all the while labelled as somewhat a genius, I could extend, explore and extrapolate on the topic and throw his parents and teachers into the crosshairs of his own failure, but he pays a good chunk of cash weekly to decipher what is etched deep in the confines of his “why”.

School, life and jogging were arduous tasks that he fractioned into infinite parts of bearable duration, hoping that soon enough more had passed than remained to come, until it was over for good. Until someone told him that cooking might be what he was chasing since his early days, and whatever academic pursuit that stood in his path should be dropped out of, wise words.

Time spent cooking, the coup de feu, the dinner rush, there was no “prior”, there was no later, all the boxes on the list; checked! The shrieking grind of the dot matrix printer sounded to him like a cheer from his corner-man, 45 veal chops to prep, 45 veal chops to cook, 45 veal chops to re-order, bliss! Nothing left undone, forgotten, no neglected to-do’s . Everything tasted great, when he left, surfaces were clean and reeked appropriately of bleach.

The pudgy teen had fun, but he couldn’t find sleep, 44 chops were great but the 45th was a bit rough, perhaps he who ate it didn’t know real veal from tenderize Tyson shit!? The waiter dropped the wrong knife? Or the supplier sent us shit calf! Anyway, he rehearsed the shit stew he will lay thick onto the innocents. He fell asleep, but printer woke him up, there was no printer.

55 veal chops, 75 veal chops, 90 veal chops; the pudgy teen is a warrior, a hero, his skin now bears the seared branding of his culinary kin. The printer still shrieks at 4 am but he doesn’t hear it because he hopped along with the tribe for some beers, a lot of them.

He missed the shriek of the printer, but the calls he didn’t, he got up, sobered up and went, he picked up his tribe-mates, from the ground they fell on, from jails and from the psych wards.

Now half an hour after the printed used to buzz, he would expects the phone to bling, most of the time it doesn’t, when it doe’s he’s there in an instant to sanitize the grounds and heal the troops after the bloodbaths. Sometimes it rings and it’s just bad news, but he’s not going back to bed; overdoses and murder suicide are no lullabies.

The beers, Jagger bombs and Player lights no longer dampen the bleeps of the 4 am calls, furthermore, it sorts of make you tired. Cocaine is conveniently priced and packaged, it certainly doesn’t mute the rings, but the buzz generated by this circle jerk of tongue chewing dick heads redoing the world with false promises effectively muffles it.

Among the fans of pudgy teen’s veal chop are a few doctors, and pudgy teen, not completely honest, opens up about his anxiety and his inability to sleep. Sure, he omits a few details; the thefts, the betrayals, the powders and the liquids. After all the life of a chef without the inclement add-ons it's harsh enough to legitimize a Xanax script!

Solace! The beer numbs the anger of the night’s mistakes, the vodka catalyses the beer’s effect, but cocaine is there to help you go further, Xanax will soon shield the rising sun, awesome.

Most of his culinary heroes count their achievements in vintages and grams, anyways, he looks up to them, they seem happy doing it, he will get there someday, just has to dial in the dosage.

He misses the phone calls, fish didn’t come in, later that night, 5 or 6 veal chop sucked. Of course, it not his fault, he’s not cooking them anymore, using the people skills he learned however he could, he addresses the situation, a dish basket nearly misses his head, later the dishwasher stabs a happy go lucky manager with a bottle.

Pudgy kid took from his paycheck to pay the night chef on site, so the House could serve Grey Goose until 3am.

Earlier that night, a food writer managed to snatch a table at 9:30, between the Buddha Bar replays and the budding DJ remixes of U2. Not glorious, it’s obvious. Will be either stars in print or stars on pills.

Pudgy teen worked long shifts so now another voice joined the choir of screams, he’s never home, leaves too early and can’t stop looking at his phone. But he’s a cool dude now and he drinks champagne, he’s an epicurean Mohican, not a trashy line cooks that drinks beer, he tells himself that.

When the Champagne swells his forehead a bit too much he moves to craft beers and small batch spirits, helping the small farms and artisans in the process. He makes wise decisions, socially inclined choices of intoxicants. He drinks from magnums to lower his bottle count, lays down early, or so he was told.

But he’s not cooking 45 chops a day anymore, there’s no ways he could. People who flock in love him for who he has become, a legendary glutton, an emotional cesspool of epic proportions who turned to wheat grass and one liners to limp his way thru service.

He stacks fatty cuts, and metaphors, skillfully intersects them with meaty opinions, he gets quoted by media folks.

Pudgy kid is grown up, mostly happy now, but still stuck; between wine soaked layers of truffles, pills and crafty banter.


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