James Beard Publication of the Year 2017

Our tribute to Italy—and to Anthony Bourdain

As we’re all still staggered by the loss, we are grateful that we have the last book in our series to offer as a humble tribute.

It is such strange timing that today is the publication day for the last book in our series with Anthony Bourdain. But it’s also serendipitous. Our relationship with Tony began with Matt Goulding’s writing. In fact, it began with two words—Dear Tony—that kicked off an email Matt wrote Tony from Japan with the aid of a certain amount of liquid courage. That email started a remarkable relationship that was, from the beginning until this devastating week, entirely driven by Tony’s unrelenting enthusiasm for the kind of storytelling we all loved.

He didn’t teach us to be empathetic, or to seek out the rich vein of stories that always lies within the lives of others. But he taught us to trust our instincts to try to do so. “The world needs Roads & Kingdoms,” he would say, and I never quite believed him. But I’m beginning to understand what he meant. The world sure as shit doesn’t need us as individuals. And he didn’t seem like he wanted the world to need him—ask him something as pedestrian as which country he loved to visit most, and he would give a sharply telling answer, usually about a place where he could be anonymous, even at his height, even with that famous face. But I think he meant that the world needs people like him, like his production partners at ZPZ, and like our brilliant, heartbroken team at Roads & Kingdoms—Anup Kaphle, Cengiz Yar, Shivani Mehta, Alexa van Sickle, Chris Rhee, Michael Snyder, Tyler Elmore, Kate Kunath, Danielle Renwick, Tafi Mukunyadzi—to tell the kind of stories that might otherwise go untold.

I am hesitant to say more about Tony because he was at heart a very private person, and this week has been so disastrously public. But in the four years of public and private moments he shared with Matt and me and our R&K partner Doug Hughmanick, he always pushed us, in word and by example, to be better, less compromising, less conventional, more grateful, more generous.

And so, as we’re all still staggered by this news, I am so grateful that we have this book to offer as a humble tribute. Kim Witherspoon and Karen Rinaldi, two legends of letters who had known and worked with Tony for decades, helped bring it to life. And Pasta Pane Vino is, I think, the highest expression of Matt’s talent for deep narrative storytelling that drew Tony to us in the first place. It’s about Italy, about the everyday heroes and the changing faces of a country and a cuisine that Tony cared for deeply. And, fittingly, the book’s introduction, a correspondence between Matt and Tony, starts with two very familiar, very precious words: Dear Tony.

***

This post originally appeared on June 12, 2018, in Roads & Kingdoms’ newsletter. Read the archives and subscribe to the newsletter.

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