KUCHING: Many Sarawakians see the death of world-renowned celebrity chef and television personality Anthony Bourdain as ‘losing a dear friend’.
Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said the late American was fondly remembered for promoting Sarawak – particularly Sarawak Laksa – to the rest of the world.
“It is so sad to hear of the demise of Anthony Bourdain. He had been to Sarawak a few times and was known for his love of Sarawak Laksa, which he claimed as ‘one of the foods served in heaven’.
“His comment on Sarawak Laksa has popularised the dish, making it widely known all over the world and we thank him for that.
“My deepest condolences to his family and loved ones for his sudden demise – Sarawak has lost a dear friend,” he said.
Bourdain’s death, at the age of 61, in France on Friday sent shockwaves worldwide and since then, tributes have been pouring in on social media.
In 2015, the celebrity chef became somewhat of a cult hero among Sarawakians after he posted a photo of Sarawak Laksa via Instagram, captioning it ‘Breakfast of Gods’.
He first tasted the dish at Choon Hui Kopitiam in Kuching 10 years earlier when he visited the shop to film his ‘No Reservations’ series for the ‘Travel Channel’.
He must have missed the dish so much that he returned to the same shop in 2015 to shoot for CNN’s ‘Parts Unknown’ – his award-winning show. It is learnt that the production team paid the bill for every patron at the shop during the filming.
Sarawak Laksa also made it to the ‘Top 10 wish list’ for Bourdain’s food market in New York – a plan that has yet to materialise.
Apart from the dish, Bourdain endeared himself further by filming his experience during a visit to an Iban longhouse in Skrang.
The first trip was made in 2005 during the shooting of a ‘No Reservations’ episode after the ‘laksa’ eating experience.
Bourdain went to the longhouse again three years later for the Gawai celebration, and also for the filming of a ‘Parts Unknown’ episode.
The scenes of him joining the longhouse folk in their merrymaking were heart-warming – Bourdain even got himself a tattoo of Iban motif on his sternum, done in the traditional way of hand-tapping.