November 5, 2015
By Phaedra Cook
Anthony Bourdain is in Houston for a brief series of events called The Balvenie Rare Craft Collection. About 800 lucky Houstonians were able to score a spot to hear Bourdain speak and taste some of The Balvenie’s whiskys. It’s not his first time in Houston, nor will it be his last. The author and former chef will be returning soon to film an episode of his CNN series Parts Unknown. Bourdain warns that it’s likely that the episode won’t please everyone. “Every time I do something in Houston, people say, ‘That’s not my Houston.’ Well, that’s not what we do. We don’t do Top 10 lists”
Besides a relatively newfound appreciation of the more nuanced aspects of whisky, what attracted Bourdain to the events is the theme of showcasing detailed, time-consuming craftsmanship. It’s not just about The Balvenie’s work, but that of craftspeople who produce other products with a great deal of care. These people have preserved the old way of making things without concessions for efficiency or mass production. Bourdain selected each person who is showcased as part of the Rare Craft Collection.
About the selection process, he said, “I was presented with files and materials to choose from and look at. I met a lot of people. Of many — all of whom were deserving — some were chosen. I think you can see my personal prejudices, enthusiasms, passions, likes and dislikes are reflected in who is in this collection. I like people who work with their hands. I like people who work with iron and metal. I have a passion for bookmakers and the printed word. I consider myself a patriot, so I like to see a watchmaker who makes watches in America and not Switzerland. All of these people deserve to be celebrated.” . . .
. . . Of course, the whisky wasn’t the only extraordinary thing on display. The artisans had booths at the event with their own tools and examples of their work. Sebastian Martorana of Baltimore makes sculptures and architectural features, like carved lettering, of marble reclaimed from demolished buildings. His artistic works have a dose of humor about them, like the Super Mario statue that was on display at The Balvenie Rare Craft Collection event.