There are moments in American history when you can remember exactly where you were at the time. The other side of that statement is the fact that more times than not, those moments are never good ones.
The old-timers among us will remember the moment they heard President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas. Still others can remember watching ABC's Monday Night Football when they announced John Lennon had been shot outside of his home in New York City.
For millions of people around the world, including so many here in our area, one of those moments came to be a couple of weeks ago, when news broke that chef/author and television personality Anthony Bourdain had died.
"I got a text from my sister that only said 'Anthony Bourdain???'" says Brandy Williamson, executive chef for Daniel Reed Hospitality in Savannah. "I pulled up Facebook and it smacked me in the face. There it was. Anthony Bourdain had killed himself. I was numb for easily an hour."
In the months and years down the road, everyone will have a similar story. Everyone will remember that moment. Especially if you worked in a kitchen. Especially if you were a fan of Bourdain's work. Which, by far, most restaurant employees were and continue to be.
"The first day of culinary school, they made us watch 'A Cook's Tour,'" Brandy says. Bourdain's first television show. "For a lot of students it was a turnoff. A lot of them never came back. A few walked out on the spot, she says. Not Brandy. "That was exactly what I wanted to do," she says. Bourdain had summarized it all.
Brandy isn't alone in feeling the way she does. Losing America's first real culinary bad-boy rock star is a blow some may struggle to recover from. Bourdain gave the worker bees in America's kitchens a voice. "He's the only one who was real," Brandy says.
People would ask her, who is your culinary hero? "My grandmother for one," she says, "and Anthony Bourdain."
She was also motivated to try to help anyone who may need it, but will never ask. In the wake of Bourdain's death, there has been a lot of buzz about depression and suicide prevention. For all the willingness of people to genuinely want to help, most of us don't find out someone close to us needed it until it is too late.
It is why Brandy has rallied anyone in the Savannah community willing to help. She's putting together an event Sunday evening, a gathering of friends to raise as much money as they can to try to help whomever they can. She is calling it "No Reservations: A Benefit for Suicide Prevention."
"I just mentioned doing something to a couple of people and it has taken off," Brandy says. Food and drink is being donated for sale; artists are bringing their work to do the same. There will be live music, tattoo artists and a series of other vendors offering their services.
A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
In the days since the idea first took shape, Savannahians have rallied. For Brandy's vision, for the memory of Bourdain, but most importantly, for each other. "There is nothing glamorous about the restaurant industry," she says, citing substance abuse and poor mental health as issues that are more widespread than anyone who doesn't work in the industry would realize.
"There is a lot of that," Brandy says. "The mindset of years gone by of work hard/play hard is still there. I don't do it as much as I used to; I have a baby due in seven weeks. But that doesn't mean it isn't still out there."
Brandy just wants to help. Anyone, really, who may need it.
“No Reservations: A Benefit for Suicide Prevention” is a free event from 5-9 p.m. June 24 at 7 Rathborne Drive near downtown. You can find up-to-the-moment information on vendors, food, drink and more on the event's Facebook page.
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