EUREKA, Mo. — A Eureka family is mourning the loss of a celebrity chef, best-selling author and journalist who supported their son's trip to Europe.
The family from Eureka forged a special bond with Anthony Bourdain when he helped their son make his dream trip.
Evan Pina-White was diagnosed with Leukemia at the age of 11. During his darkest days, he had a special relationship with the celebrity chef as he went through treatments. He says the chef's death took him by surprise.
"There were several mixed emotions there. Loss was very relevant," Pina-White said.
Pina-White says during his cancer treatments he watched Bourdain's television shows in the hospital. It got him through tough days.
"He helped with get through very dark times in my life, " Pina-White said.
After intense rounds of chemotherapy in 2010, Pina-White finally got the chance to meet the celebrity chef at a book signing event at the Fox Theater. During a Q& A session after the event, the young boy asked Bourdain where he should go for the world's best seafood. The chef told him Spain.
"His show, in particular, was one of the things that I really enjoyed," Pina-White said.
Then in 2012, the Make-A-Wish Foundation gave Pina-White and his family a chance of a lifetime to go on a cruise around Europe.
"Three years down the line, just out the blue, we were contacted by him and it was surreal," Pina-White said.
Pina-White says before his trip to Europe, Bourdain wrote a personal check for $5000 and sent him lists of restaurants to enjoy overseas.
"Make a wish is a dream come true, but it was sort of like a dream within a dream moment," Pina-White said.
For several years following his trip, the two stayed in touch through social media, but communication stopped in his high school years. On Friday, he and his family mourned the loss of Bourdain. Evan says his heart was crushed when he heard about his death from his mother.
"She said Anthony Bourdain was found dead in his hotel this morning," Pina-White said.
While Evan knows he will never be able to see Bourdain again, he still cherishes the memories the two shared and the friendship that got him through some hard times.
"It just felt weird the fact that he's gone, Pina-White said.
Pina-White is 19 and cancer free. He just completed his freshman year at Washington University, where he is studying biology. The family still has the autographed book and pictures from the trip.