Celebrity chef, author Anthony Bourdain dead at 61
Anthony Bourdain, the celebrity chef who took foodies around the world as part of his travelogue programs, has died at age 61, CNN said Friday.
Bourdain, who had been working on his CNN series on culinary traditions, was found unresponsive Friday morning by friend and chef Eric Ripert in the French city of Haut-Rhin. CNN called his death a suicide.
Bourdain’s popular show Parts Unknown airs on the network.
The New York chef previously hosted shows and documentaries on The Food Network and Travel Channel.
“His love of great adventure, new friends, fine food and drink and the remarkable stories of the world made him a unique storyteller,” CNN said in a statement on Friday.
“His talents never ceased to amaze us and we will miss him very much. Our thoughts and prayers are with his daughter and family at this incredibly difficult time.”
Parts Unknown took Bourdain around the globe. At each stop, he would delve into the regional culture and sample the cuisine, typically led by local experts. Last fall, he was spotted in Newfoundland and Labrador and the nearby French islands of St-Pierre-Miquelon.
“I have the best job in the world,” Bourdain said in 2017.
He said in a 2017 interview that his job came at a personal cost to family life. Bourdain separated from his second wife (mixed martial arts fighter Ottavia Busia) in 2016 and said he missed their daughter Ariane, who is 11, while on the road.
“I travel 250 days a year. How normal could I ever hope to be?”
He had recently been dating Italian actor-filmmaker Asia Argento, one of the prominent accusers of film producer Harvey Weinstein.
Born in New York, but raised in Leonia, N.J., Bourdain had attributed his love of food to his first oyster: eaten on a fisherman’s boat during a family vacation to France, from where his paternal grandparents had emigrated.
Though he dropped out of Vassar College, working in kitchens eventually led him to the Culinary Institute of America, from which he graduated in 1978.
He rose through the New York restaurant ranks, eventually landing as executive chef at the famed Brasserie Les Halles in 1998.
He began to gain wider public attention with the release of his blockbuster 2000 book Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, which grew out of a write-up he had submitted to The New Yorker the year before.
A string of bestsellers followed, including A Cook’s Tour: In Search of the Perfect Meal, The Nasty Bits, and Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People who Cook.
Bourdain was honest in retelling his life story, including his struggles with heroin addiction.
As he branched out into television opportunities, with series such as A Cook’s Tour and No Reservations, he became known for his acerbic style, admitting he had honed a role as a “provocateur.”
But he took the intersection of food, culture and politics seriously, preferring to visit local markets and food stalls rather than high-end restaurants.
“Tony was approachable to anybody, would speak to everybody, he would drink with everybody,” friend David McMillan, the Montreal chef and co-owner of Joe Beef, told CBC Radio’s qon Friday.
“It was a beautiful thing to see. It was very human.”
Indeed, in an interview with CBC’s On The Money in 2016, Bourdain said he was “dismayed” at a recent tide of xenophobia and anti-migrant sentiment in the world.
“If you travel as long as I have and as much as I have, and you meet as many people and spend time with them, in countries that we’re supposed to hate and who are supposed to hate us, when you see how mostly similar people are, particularly when sitting around a table, it makes it very, very hard [to see],” he said.
Despite being one of the world’s most famous foodies, Bourdain continued to marvel at his success.
In the latest preface for his breakout memoir Kitchen Confidential, he wrote that he never intended it to “rip the lid off the restaurant business,” but rather to write a book for his colleagues in his own voice. He never thought his book would have appeal beyond professional kitchens.
“What I set out to do was write a book that my fellow cooks would find entertaining and true,” he wrote.
True to his character, he then offered self-deprecating commentary about contributing to what has become North America’s obsession with and veneration of top chefs and restaurateurs.
“The new celebrity chef culture is a remarkable and admittedly annoying phenomenon. While it’s been nothing but good for business — and for me personally — many of us in the life can’t help snickering about it,” he wrote.
“Of all the professions, after all, few people are less suited to be suddenly thrown into the public eye than chefs.”
Where to get help:
The toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL) at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868 (Phone), Live Chat counselling at www.kidshelpphone.ca
Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention: Find a 24-hour crisis centre
Association québécoise de prévention du suicide (AQPS) (French): 1-866-APPELLE
If you’re worried someone you know may be at risk of suicide, you should talk to them about it, says the Canadian Association of Suicide Prevention.
Here are some warning signs:
Hopelessness and helplessness.