Like most everyone, I was gutted by the news of your passing. It’s only been a little more than a month, and I’m only just getting over the initial shock—at least enough to gather my thoughts. Though you were obviously wrestling with your own demons, you were much loved, brother, the type of dude that a lot of people would have loved to sit down and have a beer or share a meal with. Since I was one of the lucky ones who got to do that, I feel the need to pay my respects, and let people know what you were really like.
One thing I love about you, is that despite having one of the most celebrated jobs in the world, you were always very down-to-earth and approachable. People always asked me, ‘Well, what’s he really, like?’ and I always responded, ‘The Tony you see on camera, is the one you get in real life.’ When I first sent you an email out of the blue offering to show you Sri Lanka–not knowing what to expect–you surprised me and took me up on the offer. Not only did you shine a spotlight on this tiny island nation–recently buffeted by civil war and natural disaster– and expose her people, culture and food to the world, but you allowed me to help tell that story. It’s no small thing being invited to produce and appear on one of your favorite shows, which No Reservations was at the time. That experience in itself would have been enough, but your generosity extended even further. You brought the self-published copy of my book, Rice & Curry: Sri Lankan Home Cooking that I had given you, and held it up on camera during the show. That exposure resulted in my getting a proper deal for the book, which went on to make the New York Times list of the year’s best cookbooks when it was released in 2011. You also blessed me with a back cover blurb for that new version. And I suspect that your actions towards me–someone you hardly knew–were more the rule than the exception. In fact, I’m sure you’ve hooked up a lot of other people because that’s just the kind of person you were—cool, humble, down to earth, and using your position to make a difference. You have also obviously touched a lot of people during the course of your travels, as the universal sadness and great mourning of your passing suggests. I, for one, am forever grateful, and consider myself lucky to have known you.
So Thanks, Tony.
And Bon Voyage.