Ron Joseph, who co-owns Strawberry Street Café in the Fan, is a little hurt. When it was announced he’d be providing food for the VIP after-party of Anthony Bourdain’s “Guts and Glory” tour stop here, online snarking sent a rude ripplet through town. The café’s bathtub salad bar and trend-wary menu is still popular after a 37-year run, and Joseph wants the dining public to know that he’s no one-trick catering pony. So he’s stepping up to feed Bourdain’s 200-person party after the food renegade’s April 23 appearance at the Landmark Theater.
“We were working in Baltimore at the same time,” Joseph says of Bourdain’s early chef years. “I respect him because he came up through the school of hard knocks, and I’m looking forward to meeting him.” More likely, Joseph will be busy directing a bash of wedding-scale significance, footing the bill and bringing in flowers and chef stations to the kitchen-less “ballroom” in the bowels of the Landmark. He’s aware there will be scrutinizing critique, but probably not from Bourdain himself. The author, chef and television adventurer admonishes travelers to be good guests and to appreciate what’s offered.
In next week’s case, that’s a taste of the South with some Mediterranean thrown in --including shrimp and local grits, country ham on sweet potato scones, tuna tartare on crispy wontons and sautéed wild mushrooms in pastry. Black angus crostini with onion jam and tables of grilled vegetables, sweets and Ethiopian coffee will be “mainly for the guests,” Joseph expects, because Bourdain typically sips a drink while posing for innumerable photos with his fans. “I know this business can be about chasing the trends all the time, but look how many of them flame out fast,” Joseph says. “I’m trying to be here for the long haul,” he says, and whether or not the star notices, he’s giving it a pricey and carefully considered shot.