Little known past of the late celebrity chef

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IT WAS 1997 and Anthony Bourdain was a little-known crime writer and outside of New York City, an even lesser known chef.

On the shelves among the bottles of a tiny but famous hole-in-the-wall bar, Bourdain’s novels were on display.

Bone in the Throat, followed by Gone Bamboo were Bourdain’s breakthrough attempts as an author. The first novel was a funny, culinary-themed murder mystery, the second a mobster tale.

And among the celebrities, journalists and rock star clientele who frequented Siberia Bar, Bourdain was a regular.

Set in an old shoe repair shop in New York’s 50th Street and Broadway subway station, Siberia Bar was the brainchild of massive and legendary proprietor Tracy Westmoreland who had become Bourdain’s friend.

Westmoreland often sent his other clientele off to Les Halles, Bourdain’s Park Avenue brasserie where he cooked memorable platters of steak frites and green beans.

Late at night after Les Halles closed, Bourdain and some of his staff would go to Siberia to wind down.

For other drinkers at Siberia, Bourdain came across as a quiet bloke, a little melancholy with a past, you learned if you drank often enough at Siberia, of heroin addiction.

It was three years before his international bestseller Kitchen Confidential would change his life, and the world of celebrity cooking.

But, Westmoreland revealed in the New York Daily News following Bourdain’s tragic death last week in a Paris hotel room, that things were in train.

“I told him to stop writing crime novels,” Westmoreland told reporter Brian Niemitz.

“I told him you’re not a f***ing gangster, you’re a chef. Tony was a better writer than he was a chef.”

At Siberia Bar, he and Bourdain hatched future plans which didn’t come to pass.

They pair were going to open a bar in the Caribbean island of Saint Martin.

Westmoreland had young children and Bourdain’s career took off, producing eight or more books including a Les Halles cookbook and a companion to his international TV hit show, No Reservations.

Following his friend’s death last week, Tracy Westmoreland said on Facebook he was “devastated”.

He told the News that he hopes an unpublished page about Siberia written by Bourdain could make a book he hopes to publish, “Siberia Chronicles”.

“You never know who’s going to be draped over couches or listening to live bands in the dungeon-like cellar — rock-and-rollers, off-duty cops, drunken journos, cast and crew from ‘Saturday Night Live,’ slumming fashionistas, post-work chefs … it’s heaven,” Bourdain wrote.

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