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When Anthony Bourdain walked into Trejo’s Cantina, it was like being visited by the Pope, owner Danny Trejo tells The Hollywood Reporter.
The Machete actor, whose restaurant was featured on a Los Angeles episode of Parts Unknown in April 2017, recalls the moment Bourdain stepped foot inside.
“When he walked in, it was like getting visited by the Pope. If you’re in the food industry, he was the Pope,” Trejo says. “It was the first time I’ve ever heard the whole restaurant quiet. We didn’t even have to say, ‘Rolling.’ Everyone was just quiet, and they wanted to hear what he said. He was just so gracious, and he didn’t say a bad thing.”
The Hollywood branch of Trejo’s Tacos, which opened in 2016, appeared in CNN’s Parts Unknown for the season nine premiere, all about Latinos and Chicanos in L.A. Its host and star chef, Bourdain, died Friday at age 61.
Bourdain loved his cauliflower tacos and jackfruit, Trejo says. Bourdain told him, “Trejo, you’re Mexican, and you got a cauliflower taco!” To which Trejo replied, “Hey, it’s healthy.” Bourdain bit into it and serenely said, “This is good.”
“I was so proud,” says Trejo. “You do something and the Pope tells you that it’s good, it almost brings you to tears.” The actor recalls being humbled by Bourdain’s presence, and how the acclaimed chef “made me feel good that I was in the restaurant business.”
Above the praise, Trejo remembers the conversation, along with Bourdain’s humility and neighborly graciousness.
“When he was sitting down, eating, talking to you, I don’t think he knew he was Anthony Bourdain. It’s like everybody knows who they are. But he was just like if you were talking to your next-door neighbor — that kind of graciousness. He wasn’t talking down at you, and he wasn’t talking up. He was just talking right with you,” Trejo tells THR.
Bourdain’s words especially resonated with Trejo, who doesn’t identify as a chef. He says he started a restaurant and got a great chef, but Bourdain “talked to me like if we were on the same level. He’s just a really beautiful man.”
Bourdain had a gift, Trejo says, for talking right “at you” and “with you” as they both laughed in Trejo’s Cantina together. “Anthony Bourdain did not know he was Anthony Bourdain and one of the most well-known men in the world,” Trejo says. “He didn’t know he was the Pope.”
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