EUREKA • Weeks before he got to meet one of his heroes, Evan Piña-White watched the hero on television from a hospital bed.
"I was on these anti-nausea meds just so I could keep my own lunch down, but I was glued to the TV, watching Anthony Bourdain eat amazing food in all these exciting places," Evan, 13, said last weekend from his Eureka home. "I said, 'I want to see what he's seeing, do what he's doing.'"
The LaSalle Springs middle-schooler shared a brief interaction with Bourdain when the famously sharp-tongued culinary writer and TV host came to the Fox Theatre on a book tour in October 2010. During a question-and-answer session, Evan — who had been diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia just three months earlier — asked where to go for the world's best seafood once he recovered from treatment.
Bourdain's answer: Spain.
On Friday, Evan and his family will depart for Barcelona, where they'll spend several days before and after a seven-day European cruise.
"I asked him that mainly because I love seafood, and I figured he's been all over the place, so he could tell me where to go," Evan said. "Once he said Spain, I knew that's where I needed to go."
The trip is being provided by the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which since 1980 has granted more than 222,000 wishes to children with life-threatening diseases.
The cruise will take Evan, his parents and his two younger brothers to ports in Italy and France. The incoming eighth-grader said he's eager for the whole adventure, but very much looking forward to eating his way through Barcelona's fish.
And he said he's feeling healthy enough to make the most out of the trip.
"When I went to the (Bourdain) show, I was on a really heavy dose of medication," Evan said. "Now I'm taking about a hundredth of the dose I was before. So, the treatment's been great, and I'm making a really strong recovery."
Cancer didn't stop Evan, an accomplished violinist, from keeping a straight-A average in seventh grade. He's quick to credit his teachers, who kept him up to date via email with homework and other class news when he had to miss school.
While undergoing chemotherapy, Evan performed Christmas violin recitals for other kids hospitalized during cancer treatment. The local Leukemia and Lymphoma Society named Evan its 2012 Boy of the Year.
He says part of the reason he's been motivated to stay active and get to Spain is the shot of encouragement Bourdain gave him in St. Louis.
"He may not realize it, but he inspires a lot of people to live life a little more, to get off the couch and do something," Evan said. "He's someone I can look up to."