Wheat Penny chef Mariah McNally met her hero Anthony Bourdain when he came to Dayton in 2012.
Photo: Courtesy of Mariah McNally
Photo: Courtesy of Mariah McNally

Local man broke through Anthony Bourdain’s facade during hectic Dayton visit

Dayton chef: “He had a snarky side, and I enjoy that.”

Downtown Dayton resident Mike Colvin had misgivings about meeting Anthony Bourdain when the celebrity chef, author and TV star brought his “Guts and Glory” tour to the Schuster Center on Nov. 18, 2012.    

In that setting, a VIP meet and greet, Colvin said it seemed a little weird to meet the man who had his dream job and got to eat and drink himself around the world.  

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Colvin is among the many Dayton-area residents expressing grief over the death of Bourdain, the host of CNN’s award-winning series "Parts Unknown." 

Downtown Dayton resident Mike Colvin met celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain at the Schuster Center in 2012.
Photo: Courtesy of Mike Colvin

Here is how Mike explained it in a Facebook post related to Bourdain’s suicide: 

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I was shocked to see that there was a meet and greet ticket option when he came to town. Not shocked enough to keep me from immediately exercising that option, mind you, but still… It seemed like exactly the kind of thing he would hate and refuse to do. Spending an evening forced to sit in a room and take photos with a bunch of stuffed shirts who had the economic means to afford a “VIP” experience (and me, who didn’t, but spent the money anyway) really felt like the last thing Bourdain would enjoy, and probably something he was reluctantly enduring because it was part of the contract for his tour or something. 

 At the event, I circled the room, ate finger sandwiches, and generally avoided going near him because it still felt weird to me. My suspicions about his level of enjoyment seemed confirmed, as he appeared to be making minimal conversation with guests, half-smiling for photos, and, without being rude or cold, had a general “let’s get this over with” look to him. I even overheard someone try to tell him that we had a great bourbon bar in town that he should check out, and he replied, “Yes. I’ve heard” with an undertone that indicated this was the 30th person who’d tried to get him to try a Dayton business and the 3 millionth person who’d tried to take him to the best spot in their town, and he was over it. 

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 The event was almost over, and I decided that, weird or not weird, this was why I was here. So I got in the line of the few remaining people waiting to meet him. Each person approached, said whatever they had planned to say to him, and received a polite but incredibly succinct response as he signed their books and allowed them to pose for photos with him. When it was my turn, I said “Thank you for being here,” paused, and said “and thank you for doing THIS.” Without looking at me, he calmly said, “You’re welcome. Thank you” and we took a picture. 

 As I turned to walk away, I suddenly got the urge to say something to break through the monotony and rote process of his evening and see if I could get a reaction, partially for my own selfish reasons of wanting a better experience with him, but also to try to give him something other than an hour of book signing and photos with people spouting “we watch you all the time” pseudo-praise at him. 

 On his various shows, I had always enjoyed the fact that he couldn’t help himself when it came to making Apocalypse Now/Heart of Darkness references. He’d work a quote in every time he was near a river or in a jungle or anywhere else he could. There was always a comment about Kurtz or staying on the boat or Martin Sheen to be thrown into his own situation in the moment. During his presentation that had preceded the VIP event, he had listed some of the places he’d be going soon to film the upcoming season. One of them was the Congo. 

 My photo snapped and my uneventful interaction with Tony finished, I turned to leave and stopped in my tracks. Over my shoulder, I said, “If you’re going to the Congo, I expect at least 12 references to Heart of Darkness or Apocalypse Now in that episode.” I looked back to see his eyes get wide and a smile come across his face as he looked at me and said, “Oh, hell yeah. We’ll steal the f@$king music, too.” 

 Thanks, Tony.”

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“He had a snarky side and I enjoy that”

“Well, we only met him at the meet and greet thing but he was exactly the way he is on TV, just like you expect: smart, friendly enough, no B.S. So sad for his young daughter,” she wrote in Facebook message. 

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This article contains information from WHIO-TV reporter Caroline Reinwald

Dayton Daily News copy editor Kathi Kizirnis and Amy Forsthoefel of Dayton met celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain at the Schuster Center in 2012.

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