If you ask Hannah, 16, to share pictures of her wish visit with Anthony Bourdain, chef, author, world traveler and television personality, at Le Bernardin, the first things she sends you are photos of food.
“Anthony told Eric (Ripert, the chef at Le Bernardin) to just ‘take us for a ride’,” said Hannah. “When you say that to a chef, you are treated to the most amazing things possible. It’s like ‘bring me whatever you want and I’ll eat it because I know it will be the best thing possible’.”
The best thing possible – that is what Hannah is looking forward to when she found out she would be receiving a wish from Make-A-Wish®
Arizona. Hannah had not had too many days of the “best thing possible” after she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2012. Treatments have left her with no sense of smell or taste, but she continued to watch her favorite shows, namely “No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain”. Watching, she could remind herself of the tastes and smells of her favorite foods – and think about eating all the exotic foods she never had before.
“When I was first told about Make-A-Wish Arizona, I started thinking – if this is my bucket list, who would I think, ‘I’m so happy I had a chance to meet them’ when someone asked,” said Hannah. “Anthony was on the top of my list.”
Initially, Hannah thought Anthony was going to fly to Phoenix for a nice lunch, where they could hang out and talk but Anthony had other plans. He recommended Hannah come to New York to eat at his friend’s restaurant and enjoy one of his favorite cities.
“It was like a fantasy. The limo picked us up around noon and took us through the streets of New York. I don’t think it really hit me until I arrived at the restaurant and saw him,” said Hannah. “I had to say to myself, don’t scream, don’t jump up and down. Just remain calm and say hello.”
After that initial burst of anxiety, Hannah and Anthony sat down to a meal and what she calls “genuine conversation.”
“When you talk with a chef, all the talk is really about food – like what was the last meal you ate or what is your favorite food pairing. We talked about his life and his daughter. Some parents are afraid to talk with me, almost like the fact that I have cancer is too real of a possibility for their child so they avoid the topic but he didn’t even seem to notice,” said Hannah. “Instead it was like, ‘you like food, I like food, let’s talk about food’.”
According to Hannah, her food photos do not do justice to the delicacies that came out of the kitchen – dishes with oysters and scallops, one that was bone marrow topped with sea urchin and bacon. And, a special sea salt and carmel dish that was exactly what Hannah described as her favorite two flavors.
“We were there for almost three hours but we never stopped talking,” she said. “It was so above and beyond what I ever expected.”
The fact that her trip and this experience came to her due to her battle with cancer does make it a bitter-sweet pill; however, the realization that it was also done 100 percent through donations is something Hannah never stops thinking about.
“If people really care that much about me, someone they never met, that they want me to have my wish, I have faith in humanity,” said Hannah.