Four Questions With…Zamir Gotta

Buffalo, NY –

We are all big fans of Anthony Bourdain – No Reservations here at The Observer, so when we found out that one of the mainstays of the program was living here in Buffalo, we absolutely had to get in touch. Zamir Gotta was Anthony’s “fixer” for several shows starting in 2001 with the St. Petersburg episode and continuing to travel with Tony for the next decade to places as diverse as Uzbekistan, Romania, Ukraine, Baltimore, Kansas City and Buffalo. He relocated to Buffalo to further his business interests outside of Russia a few years back, and we wanted to find out what he was up to. We connected a few weeks back, and what follows is our email conversation, lightly edited:

1. Of all the places in the world, why settle in Buffalo, NY?

Ok, why Buffalo-

Nothing happens without a reason so Tony brought me here for his [Anthony Bourdain No Reservations] Rust belt episode in January of 2009 with an agenda to show me how capitalism sucked. But, on the contrary. Despite [the] Rusty and cold feel about Buffalo then I fell in love with it’s people. It is a small city with a big heart. After living in Connecticut where Neighbors do not talk with each other – here they smile back and always make me feel welcome. The city of great Neighbors! I have many friends, mostly musicians and art community people. Many of them work in the hospitality industry and were hit hard in Covid mess. Very slowly life is getting back to normal so I am now and more convinced this is the right time to open a Spy theme bar. Something edgy and controversial. No less important is the fact that I launched my Peacemaking vodka brand in the Western New York area. This week the last cases were sold for the events paying my tribute to Tony so I’m thinking of a new post Covid limited and numbered small batch in WNY…

2. Today (June 25) is Tony’s birthday and I know you miss him probably more than most – what is something that everyone gets wrong about Tony?

Birthday and month of June- very bittersweet overall.

I was on my train from Buffalo to Connecticut on June 8, 2018 when my best friend Leo Abbott (identical clone to Bourdain) got me on on 7-10 am departure train to call [him] in 15 min to ask if I heard the news on Bourdain suicide…I was trying to take a nap…so probably “Fuck No”. Twitter appeared regularly for [the] 8 hour train ride to NYC and my niece Olga Gotta birthday celebration in Connecticut on June 8 [which was] planned next day (Saturday) was not a holiday feast for me any more since then. 

Tony was not a saint and never ever wanted to become a martyr…So no need to present him as a Saint to be mourned like a church related service. 

He always lived to get maximum simple pleasures as a real Hedonist so he did what he felt like doing under those personal emotions….Recently I met Tuskarora tribe representative near Niagara Falls and learnt how to be grateful for everyday sun, water, rain as if I am talking to Creator now every morning to appreciate life no matter how stressful it could be. So I am very grateful to Tony who brought me to Buffalo in 2009 to experience all of it.

3. You’re keeping busy with your vodka brand, films, etc, but what brings you joy in your day-to-day life?

My family, my wife Katya, 33 years of marriage and my 32 year old daughter Anna, my 19 year old son Anton (named partially after Tony in September of 2001) support me in all my creative projects and do not give me a chance to check out from an active lifestyle.

4. What are you currently working on that excites you the most?

Currently I am pushing our doc film project “Zamir Discovers Bourdain’s America” with Jim Powell and his younger brother Stephen who is an amazing Buffalo based film Director /DOP  and who is setting up next shoot in Kentucky and Arizona in July 2021, hoping to complete production stage in summer to start Kickstarter fundraising soon to do post production this fall.

A 10 year “pregnancy” with Zamir autobiography book Tony urged me to write in 2011 is getting closer to its implementation /delivery this year too. And after my Zamir vodka first batch got sold out this June I am testing Zamir juice new flavors in WNY to continue its line very soon.

Good luck to all of us.

Indeed, Zamir, indeed. Thank you for taking the time to speak with us, and we’re very much looking forward to what comes next for you, and for Buffalo.