For those who knew Anthony Bourdain, the celebrated celebrity chef who died this week by suicide, it’s the little things they’ll miss the most.
Gary Greengrass, the owner of New York City’s famed Upper West Side deli, Barney Greengrass, will miss Bourdain as his kind customer.
Greengrass and Bourdain “go back a long time,” according to the deli owner, and on Friday morning, Greengrass honored the late chef by setting up an empty table with Bourdain's regular order: Nova Scotia lox, egg scramble and a bagel.
Greengrass set the spread on the very table Bourdain used when he highlighted the quintessential Jewish deli on a 2002 episode of his Food Network show, "A Cook's Tour." Bourdain endorsed the restaurant throughout his career, both on screen and as a frequent customer.
“We decided to set up the table just the way he liked it," Greengrass told TODAY. "I just thought it would be a nice tribute to put it literally right at the table where he sat ... having his meal and reading the New York Times."
The longtime deli owner fixed the spread for a New York 1 news feature on Bourdain’s life and legacy. NY1 reporter Van Tieu tweeted a photo, which has garnered thousands of replies and retweets. The tribute impacted Greengrass deeply.
“It’s a nice tribute, but he was like a friend," said Greengrass. "We see a lot of famous people come through here, but he was just a regular guy. He treated everybody regularly, not like a celebrity.”
Greengrass feels that a restaurant owner gets to know “everyone in a unique sphere” of both comfort and respect. And through this space, Bourdain and Greengrass developed a relationship that spanned continents.
According to Greengrass, when Bourdain traveled to Africa for a “Parts Unknown” episode, he told the camera that the featured chef on the episode “knows this area like ‘I know the deli counter at Barney Greengrass.’” Bourdain’s praise humbled Greengrass. The deli bar really was “his go to place,” said the owner.
“When you see his show and he’s sitting there halfway around the world, you know he just looked comfortable. He felt right at home,” Greengrass explained. “And when he came here, when he came to us, he felt comfortable.”
The 110-year-old shop will keep cooking for Bourdain, even as Greengrass copes with the chef’s tragic passing.
“It’s hard to absorb that he’s passed away," Greengrass told TODAY. "He was knowledgeable, he was great for the New York City culinary world. And the way he brought food from all different cultures to the screen, he would go and he would just blend right in and feel at home."