Chef Tom Herndon – RIP to the Bad Boy Chef

Fuck depression.  Depression is the Donald Trump of disease. Doesn’t give a fuck who gets hurt as it crashes its way through peoples’ lives; indiscriminate, ruthless, deadly. Robin Williams, Kate Spade, and now Anthony Bourdain. Folks battling depression smile on the outside and inside they’re in a world of pain. But, to be successful in this miserable world, ya gotta buck up and make it work. Put on a happy face. I’m sorry, Chef. I’m sorry that in the face of having a lifetime dedicated to making extraordinary contributions to millions of passionate food enthusiasts across the planet, depression just didn’t give a shit and closed its cold, bony-ass fingers around your heart. Sixty-one years old?? Jesus. Depression, go fuck yourself.

You will be missed, Chef. You will NOT be forgotten.

Anthony Bourdain was a rude (read refreshing) interruption to the world culinary scene. In the kitchen he preferred listening to loud punk. He slammed danced his way to the top. He fought addiction, he fought other chefs, he fought the industry and their elitist attitude. He preferred a crowded table of chipped dishes full of incredible, traditional delicacies made with pride and authenticity by locals, over an overpriced overproduced overlong tasting menu served on Spode china by indifferent, smiling, formally-attired waitrons. Keep the amuse bouche and pass me that fire ant sandwich.

From Wikipedia:
“Bourdain was known for consuming exotic local specialty dishes, having eaten “sheep testicles in Morocco, ant eggs in Puebla, Mexico, a raw seal eyeball as part of a traditional Inuit seal hunt, and an entire cobra—beating heart, blood, bile, and meat—in Vietnam”. Bourdain was quoted as saying that a Chicken McNugget was the most disgusting thing he ever ate,  although he declared that the unwashed warthog rectum he ate in Namibia was “the worst meal of [his] life,  along with the fermented shark he ate in Iceland.”

One article in the New York Times and his career took off like a rocket. He had put his big, kitchen-scarred thumb directly onto a big bruise of the restaurant world: working as a chef isn’t always so romantic. Writing as if to one of his colleagues, he said, “I just wanted to write about my life from the point of view of a working journeyman chef of no particular distinction, honestly.” He wanted it to be one cook to another, candid, straightforward, no holds barred.

His article caught the attention of the New Yorker, who published the piece a short time later. That set the wheels in motion. He said, “I had a book contract within days. When the book came out, it very quickly transformed my life — I mean, changed everything.” Chef Bourdain’s first book, Kitchen Confidential, was a runaway best seller and catapulted him into celebrity chef status.

Over his decades long career he travelled all seven continents, paying visits to the most far-flung places to dine with locals and eat an incredible diversity of cuisine. He sums up his life of travel and food in the following quotes:

“If you’re twenty-two, physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel — as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how other people live and eat and cook. Learn from them — wherever you go.” ― from “Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook”

“Skills can be taught. Character you either have or you don’t have.” ― from “Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly”

“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.” ― from “No Reservations: Around the World on an Empty Stomach”

“That without experimentation, a willingness to ask questions and try new things, we shall surely become static, repetitive, moribund.” ― from “Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook”

“But I do think the idea that basic cooking skills are a virtue, that the ability to feed yourself and a few others with proficiency should be taught to every young man and woman as a fundamental skill, should become as vital to growing up as learning to wipe one’s own ass, cross the street by oneself, or be trusted with money.” ― from “Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook”

“The word authentic has become a completely ridiculous, snobbish term. There are so many first- and second-generation immigrants making wonderful mashups of food they grew up eating. On the other hand, I’m pretty sure that every time Guy Fieri puts barbecue pork inside a nori roll, an angel dies.” ― from an interview with Time magazine.

“Your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park. Enjoy the ride.” ― from “Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly”

Finally, when asked how he’d like to be remembered, he said “Maybe that I grew up a little. That I’m a dad, that I’m not a half-bad cook, that I can make a good coq au vin. That would be nice. And not such a bad bastard after all.”

What’s Cookin,’ Good Lookin’?

This recipe received high praise from the crew. One even said it was in the top three things that I ever cooked! When you pulse the salsa verde ingredients, don’t over mix, or it ends up being more like peanut butter. It works to season the lamb chops at the very beginning before you prepare anything else so they can sit and develop good flavor at room temperature. If you don’t have a grill, roasting them works, as well. Serve with a crisp salad and maybe a roasted potato. I would drink a lovely Barbera with this, because I am loving Barbera these days. How’s that for a sophisticated wine palate?

Lamb Chops with Pistachio Salsa Verde

Serves 8


For the Pistachio Salsa Verde:

3 medium shallots, coarsely chopped

2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

1 1/2 cups fresh parsley leaves with tender stems (packed)

1 cup fresh mint leaves with tender stems (packed)

1 cup unsalted, toasted pistachios

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoon capers, drained

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (or more, to taste)

3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

For the lamb chops:

16 lamb rib or loin chops (about 6 pounds) (1-inch-thick)

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Make the Pistachio Salsa Verde:

Pulse shallots, garlic, parsley, mint, pistachios, lemon juice, capers, red pepper flakes, and salt in a food processor until coarsely chopped. Scrape into a medium bowl and stir in oil.

Cook the lamb chops:

Season lamb chops with salt and pepper; allow to come to room temperature.

Prepare a grill or grill pan for medium-high heat. Grill chops, working in batches if needed, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the lamb registers 125°F for medium-rare, 2–3 minutes per side.

Option: You can also roast the lamb chops at 425 for 12-15 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the lamb registers 125°F for medium-rare.

Serve with Pistachio Salsa Verde.

Do Ahead

Pistachio Salsa Verde can be stored and chilled in an airtight container for up to 3 days. This condiment would work well with other proteins, too, like a nice steak or a roast chicken.

On That Note

No car chases, no explosions, no tragic, sudden deaths, just pure entertainment. Some gems from TED.

Bill T. Jones, world renowned dancer and choreographer, Josh Roman, internationally known cellist , Somi, singer spinning elegant vocal jazz from African legacies. Meeting each other for the first time. Three artists. One five-minute performance. Less than 48 hours to create.

Background for this piece

Pilobus (echoes of Butoh) performances are characterized by a strong element of physical interaction between the bodies of the performers and exaggerations or contortions of the human form (or other anthropomorphic forms), requiring extreme strength, flexibility and athleticism.                                                                                                                                                                Writer and actor Anna Deavere Smith gives life to author Studs Terkel, convict Paulette Jenkins, a Korean shopkeeper and a bull rider, excerpts from her solo show “On the Road: A Search for American Character. Love Anna





Chef Tom is currently Resident Chef for a small tech firm in San Francisco. He also teaches cooking classes, caters small parties and leads overseas culinary tours. His specialty for the last twelve years has been cooking for people with food allergies and sensitivities. His motto is “Food should give you pleasure, not pressure.”

Check him out at

3 Responses to “Chef Tom Herndon – RIP to the Bad Boy Chef”

  1. Peter Montreuil Says:

    Yet another great column! Fuck depression indeed. Well done, my friend.

  2. A lovely tribute to an amazing man. Bravo!

  3. While the quote “Your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park. Enjoy the ride.” has gotten some bad press this week … I’ve always agreed. None of us know how long we have on the planet .. but it’s not about the years in your life, it’s about the life in your years. If you’ve lived with passion and joy, it may be sad for the rest of us when you pass, but hopefully you’ve enjoyed every sandwich (to quote Warren Zevon.) This life we get, with all of it’s joys and sadness, is to be savored, like a fine wine. And when it’s done .. it’s done. No regrets.

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