Chef-journalist Anthony Bourdain’s death last week brought to mind the chefs I’ve known, including the one I married.
I first encountered this band of pirates (the only men in uniform I find sexy) when my roommate-boyfriend became the pantry chef at the Fess Hotel in 1982. It was one of Madison’s finest restaurants.
By the mid-1990s, we had begun our ritual of Sunday day-hikes in the Baraboo Bluffs. Jim had moved on to work for other restaurants, all on the fine-dining end of the spectrum, all staffed with pirates of the sort Bourdain introduced to the world when his book Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly was published in 2000.
One Sunday—it would have been a winter day in late 1992 or early ‘93–we invited two of Jim’s chef coworkers to join us. when we picked them up at their house, they loaded plump backpacks into the car.
We drove an hour into the hills, then parked at the side of the road at the base of Pine Hollow, west of Baraboo. We hiked up the frozen creek, working hard as we clambered over fallen tree branches from winter storms. Water burbled happily under the layer of ice in the hollow. Owls hooted from the ridgeline.
Our party reached a sandstone overhang and stopped to rest in its shelter. The three chefs opened their backpacks. Out came a thermos of mulled wine, another of coq-au-vin. Out came a loaf of crusty bread, a paper sleeve of sliced roast beef, crumbly cheeses. Out tumbled an assortment of chocolates.
Hungry from the hike, we tore into the feast. Then we sat back to enjoy its afterglow. Weak sun filtered down through bare trees. The stream continued its happy song. The owls called from above.
“Who cooks for you?” they asked. “Who cooks for you?”
I looked around at the handsome trio of chefs now reclining on the loose sand at the outcropping’s base. They do, I thought. Who cooks for me? The best chefs of Madison.
Whether in down jackets or chefs’ whites, a foodie is always a foodie. Those of us who get to live with them are lucky indeed.
© 2018 Sarah White