I absolutely always saw a talent in him and then teachers made a recommendation…
GLADYS BOURDAIN (1934–2020), MOTHER: Tony always had a fabulous vocabulary, and he read early. I absolutely always saw a talent in him, for writing. In fact, when he was in second grade, his teacher recommended that we send him to private school, because while all the other kids were learning to read, he was in the corner, reading a book. Part of the reason he got into the private school was that he did a long composition about some French voyager who discovered the western part of France. I forget the name. He was a wonderful writer, always. When he was, I think, nine, he wrote a long composition about his younger brother, which was quite fabulous, and I wish to hell I still had it.
And he was a gifted illustrator. He actually won prizes at school for some of the art that he did. I remember one particular thing—each child in his class was given a large piece of drawing paper with the first letter of his or her last name. And so, his was a B, a vertical B, and whereas everyone else took that letter and tried to make a picture out of it, he turned the picture sideways, and that B became a pair of ski goggles and he drew the person and the skis and everything.
My husband came from a French family, and so we stayed with my husband’s aunt and uncle in the southwest of France for a while, and one of their neighbors was an oyster fisherman. We went out on the boat with them one day . . . oysters were very precious, but they gave their foreign visitors, us, a taste of oysters. I remember hating mine—I hate raw things like that— but Tony was just delighted with it. Tony always said that his first taste of vichyssoise, and then the oyster, sort of changed his life. CHRISTOPHER BOURDAIN: Our parents never had enough money, really.
Our dad inherited a bunch of money when his mother died. She was one of these people who saved every penny for forty years, so she had a decent amount. We had two wonderful trips to France. We bought a ridiculously goofy British car while in France and had it shipped back to New Jersey. We were sent to private school. But, actually, our parents kind of ran out of money after three or four years, and then were struggling for the next, well, forever, to pay for private school. I honestly don’t know how they did it. Once in a while, bill collectors would show up, or there would be obvious things in the mail, that bills had been unpaid. But, meanwhile, they kept it all looking OK, you know; they never let on.