Saturday, June 09, 2018

Anthony Bourdain, Rest In Peace

I was horrified and downright depressed to hear of Anthony Bourdain's suicide yesterday. I learned quite a bit from watching his shows and reading his writings, including this bit of sushi-bar etiquette: if you want to compliment a sushi chef, you do not talk about the quality or taste of the fish (because the chef has no control over that); instead, you should rave about his rice. And I ended up benefiting by (or suffering because of) this lesson last night.

Jeff and I went to one of our favorite local buffet restaurants (Hibachi Grill on Jimmy Carter Boulevard in Norcross, for any Atlanta-area locals reading this). Their midweek sushi selections are okay, but on weekends they are spectacular (especially considering it only costs $11.50 per person, plus tips).

As usual, I ignored the hot-food tables and made a beeline for the sushi buffet. On my first trip there, before grabbing a plate I fumbled in my purse until I found my wallet and took out a dollar to put in the tip jar; the chef noticed and said thank you. Second trip to the buffet, I put in another dollar (which I already had in hand, so I did not have to dig for my wallet). I did this again for my third and final trip -- I know from experience that if I show up hungry, three [small, buffet-sized] plates of sushi is exactly the right amount for me to eat without getting uncomfortably full -- and this time the chef asked if there was anything in particular I wanted him to make. "No, it's all good," I said. "I love the sushi here! I rave about it to my friends." Then, thanks to Bourdain, I remembered to add: "I don't know what you do with the rice here, but it is AWESOME."

I took my plate back to our table, where Jeff was eating dessert, and commented how, when I was a kid, I never would've believed anyone who told me that when I grew up, I would regularly have the chance to gorge on ice cream and cakes, but would refuse in lieu of eating raw fish.

No sooner did I finish saying that then the sushi chef came to our table with a plate holding six pieces of sushi (three each salmon and tuna). "Oh! You didn't have to do that!" I exclaimed, and when he left I told Jeff ,"I swear, I did not ask or even HINT that he should do that. I'm kind of embarrassed."

"You shouldn't be," Jeff said.

"I don't know if he did because I tipped him on every trip, or because I complimented his rice."

There was no polite way to reject the chef's offer -- or if there is, I couldn't think of it -- and since it's a buffet I couldn't take any leftovers home. So for politeness' sake I ate four plates of sushi in lieu of my usual three, and ended up painfully full. But after I finished eating, I staggered back to the sushi bar to put a couple more dollars in the chef's tip jar and thank him. On the drive home, after approximately my three dozenth John Belushi-sized belch, Jeff laughed and said "No good deed goes unpunished."

Rest in peace, Anthony Bourdain. You deserve a far better memorial than the one I gave you here.

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