“No Reservations: Bouquets for Bourdain” (9x12 inches, oil on canvas)
A tribute to the late chef, author and TV host Anthony Bourdain and the beloved New York brasserie where it all started for him — Les Halles, on Park Avenue South near East 28th Street in Manhattan. This is the scene outside the shuttered restaurant last June, a few days after he passed, with flowers piling up, sentiments taped to the windows and passers-by and mourners paying respect or just standing to reflect. I started working on this that week by going there and documenting it with photos. Shortly later I began the painting, only to put it aside and to finally finish last month. As I took photos and then painted, memories flooded back: of going to Les Halles countless times with Greg Morago, who introduced me to it way back when; of seeing Bourdain in his chef’s whites in the kitchen, preparing plate after plate of steak frites and frisée with lardons before he would write about it all and rise to fame; of taking my family there in the ‘90s and seeing the look of discovery on my dad’s face after his first comforting bite of the cassoulet and similar signs of approval with the steak and sides from my mom and sister, Mary; of the Thanksgiving feast there in the 2000s with Raffaele Ronca and a group of us, having perhaps a little too much from the wine list; of the many birthdays there with Greg and Raffaele and other friends like Carolyn Farrar, Helen Verongos, Craig Winston, Ann Applegate, Jeffrey Wade and Joe Gelfand; and of the handsome waiter Armando, deftly maneuvering the crowded floor. But suddenly it was June 2018. Bourdain had just died. And Les Halles, which he had left years earlier, was closed, the sidewalk bearing the trademarks of reconstruction. With no other place to publicly mourn, people like me were drawn to where it had started. So it was fitting that the doors were shut, that the windows were papered, that a traffic cone signaled all to tread lightly and that there on the sidewalk, flowers were piling up. Frame: the Batican.
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