Chef, author, and TV host Anthony Bourdain died Friday morning in France, at the age of 61.
While Bourdain was an inveterate traveller, he seemed to hold Montreal’s food scene close to his heart, filming multiple episodes of his shows in the city; filming alongside friends, and co-owners of Joe Beef, Dave McMillan and Fred Morin; and frequenting Martin Picard’s temples to Québécois cuisine, Au Pied de Cochon and its sugar shack outside the city. In all, he was an unofficial ambassador for the city.
Here are a few of Bourdain’s most notable statements about Montreal, Quebec, and Canada at large — some expressing his love, some disparaging, and all extremely sharp. Quotes are primarily from episodes of The Layover and Parts Unknown aired in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2018.
On Montreal, relative to the rest of Canada:
This is a great country because of this city. Without Montreal, Canada would be hopeless.
On Montreal bagels versus their New York counterpart:
It’s a completely ridiculous apple and oranges discussion. I’m a New Yorker so you know where my allegiance lies. But I think it’s unfair to both quite magnificent products to try to compare them.
On Céline Dion, while visiting Toronto:
Celine Dion is not popular here, which I think speaks well of the city. I’ve met many people here who are proud to say they are not fans — I couldn’t find anyone who would say that in Montreal.
On Martin Picard as the icon for Quebec’s culinary scene:
Once every few decades, maybe every century, a nation will produce a hero. An Escoffier. A Mohammed Ali. A Dalai Lama. Joey Ramone. Someone who changes everything about their chosen field ... Martin Picard is such a man. A heretofore unencountered hybrid of rugged outdoorsman, veteran chef with many years of fine dining experience, renegade, innovator. He is one of the most influential chefs in North America.
On eating poutine in Toronto:
You’re taking on your enemy at their own game.
On the large crowds of Old Montreal and the Old Port (The Layover, 2011):
Nowadays it’s a magnet for tourists and all that comes with that. Mimes, human statues, people dressed up as Colonials. Not so nice. I hate this shit, actually.
These hearty culinarians of the north like to frolic in the snow and ice. More accurately, they like to obey their genetic Quebecois imperative to risk dental and maxillofacial injury by skating around, slapping at a hard disk, trying to drive it in each others general direction. I believe they call this sport hockey.”
On ads for Canadian tourism:
Whoever is in charge of promoting Canada abroad completely have their heads up their asses. It’s all like bears and swatting salmon and Mounties.
On Montreal’s now-defunct food-truck ban:
This is monstrous! They won’t let you sell food out of the truck! It’s a sad law, stuck in antiquity.
On a fried bologna dish at Big R restaurant in St John’s, Newfoundland:
I am, above all things, a man of the people, a regular Joe, a man as moved by a simple slab of mom’s meatloaf as I am of larks’ tongue in aspic, studded with truffles and moistened with the tears of a unicorn.
If you or anyone you know is considering suicide or self-harm or is anxious, depressed, upset, or need to talk, call the Suicide Prevention Centre of Quebec at 1-866-277-3553.