When Seven Stories Press reached out to Anthony Bourdain about writing an introduction for an out-of-print cookbook they were republishing, the celebrity chef responded right away, without hesitation.
“He was just so terrific,” said Dan Simon, founder and publisher of Seven Stories Press, praising the celebrity chef, food writer, and television host’s generosity and spontaneity.
Bourdain was found dead Friday at the age of 61 in a hotel room in France, where he was filming a segment for his CNN series, “Parts Unknown.” The television network reported that Bourdain took his own life.
“We’re just overwhelmed,” Simon said of the news.
Truly saddened about the passing of Anthony Bourdain, a generous voice who spoke out against injustice around the globe. We feel extremely fortunate to have worked with him, both on this month's re-release of Howard Mitcham's cookbook & Lydia Lunch's forthcoming essay collection.
— Seven Stories Press (@7StoriesPress) June 8, 2018
Bourdain wrote the aforementioned introduction for Howard Mitcham’s “Provincetown Seafood Cookbook” (Seven Stories Press), which was originally published in 1975 and will be rereleased on June 26. In his introduction, Bourdain spoke of the impact that the late well-known Provincetown chef had on him, calling Mitcham’s cookbook one of the most “influential of my life.”
Simon said he and his team approached Bourdain because they knew that he was “an admirer of Mitcham.” Bourdain’s culinary career got started in the early 1970s in Provincetown, where Mitcham was already a legend.
“I think he loved the gusto with which Howard lived his life and cooked and brought it all together,” the publisher said.
Below, read the full introduction that Bourdain wrote for the rerelease of Howard Mitcham’s “Provincetown Seafood Cookbook.”
“I was never pals with Howard Mitcham. Howard Mitcham never knew my name. If he knew me by sight, it was because I was always hanging around Spiritus Pizza during the bar rush, waiting for my girlfriend (of whom he was quite fond) to get off work. He’d come in after a few drinks at the Foc’sle or the Old Colony or wherever he was doing his drinking in those days. His face would be flushed and he’d be a little unsteady on his feet, and you could hear him over the crowd, but this was normal. Even then, he was a legend.
I knew Howard through his book. This book. Which was presented to me by a friend pretty much the first day I began working as a cook. In the Flagship restaurant, where I’d only recently started what would turn out to be a long, checkered career in the industry, Howard’s word was law: baseline technique, first principles when dealing with fish. His haddock amandine was famous up and down the Cape—people would drive down from Boston to eat it at Pepe’s (or later, his own eponymous restaurant). We lifted his recipe shamelessly intact.
More important than his recipes, however, and more enduring, was his prose—his attitude toward the humble quahaug, haddock, mackerel, Wellfleet oysters, striped bass, bluefish—the Portuguese fishing families of P’Town and the Cape. He was not a snob—at a time when most cookbooks sounded as if they’d been written by someone in a smoking jacket, while stroking a pet ocelot.
He put his recipes in context. Told you where they came from, what inspired them, convinced you that he loved them and that you should love them too. He was way, way ahead of his time in his embrace of so-called trash fish. And he understood always that the best place to enjoy seafood was on the beach, among friends, in a pretense-free zone, preferably accompanied by many drinks, or at the beloved Cookie’s Tap, whose squid stew he appropriated after much experimentation. That’s a recipe I still cook today—one that I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of over the years.
Like another great food writer, A. J. Liebling, Mitcham understood there is no difference between the joys of a great meal at a three-star Michelin and at a humble fishermen’s bar—as long as it’s made with love and with pride.
His love for Provincetown shines through every page of this book. It’s a true classic, one of the most influential of my life.
I may never have really known Howard Mitcham, but I miss knowing he was out there.” –Anthony Bourdain