A Look Behind…
by Abby Moore
Photograph by Anna Hanks
While fine dining has its place on the Austin food map, its most beloved institutions are unadorned and communal. Which is why when Anthony Bourdain visited Austin in 2012 for an episode of “No Reservations,” he wanted to shoot in a backyard close to downtown, but isolated from the city. Bourdain’s production scout reached out to friend Christian Helms, whose backyard perfectly matched the description.
Helms was nervous at first to meet someone he admired. After working in the music industry, he had learned to avoid contact with his favorite artists, whose reputations often deceive reality. But with Bourdain, “He was very much the guy you see on TV,” Helms said, “ just a very down-to-earth, genuine, sweet guy.” It was that unpretentious and easy-going demeanor that set Bourdain apart from the stereotypically cutthroat culinary world. His fearless sense of adventure had nothing to do with being tough, but everything to do with being curious and empathetic. “He was careful to support others’ stories, without steamrolling with his own experiences,” Helms added.
Aside from shotgunning beers, telling stories, eating food, and making margaritas, Helms most fondly remembers Bourdain asking to hold his son, Hatley. “Tony really missed his daughter, who, at the time, was very young.” It became a running joke amongst the crew to yell “Hat!” in lieu of “cut,” and at the end of each take, they would hurry to hand Bourdain the child. “He would just kind of cuddle him,” Helms said “It was little moments like those that were remarkable to us.”