Anthony Bourdain, Chef, Author and TV Host, Dies at 61

The chef who revealed the hard work and hard living of the cooks in restaurant kitchens, died today, an apparent suicide
Anthony Bourdain, Chef, Author and TV Host, Dies at 61
Anthony Bourdain loved New York City, but he also loved discovering new lands, food and people. (Ball & Albanese for Wine Spectator)
Jun 8, 2018

Updated June 8, 1:50pm.

Anthony Bourdain, the chef, author and television host who grabbed America's attention when he revealed the hard work and hard living of the chefs in restaurant kitchens, died today, an apparent suicide. He was 61.

Bourdain was in France, filming an episode of Parts Unknown when he killed himself in his hotel room, according to CNN. His close friend Eric Ripert, the French chef, found Bourdain unresponsive Friday morning.

“It is with extraordinary sadness we can confirm the death of our friend and colleague,” read a statement issued by CNN. "His love of great adventure, new friends, fine food and drink and the remarkable stories of the world made him a unique storyteller."

"Anthony was a dear friend," said Ripert, in a statement. "He was an exceptional human being, so inspiring and generous. One of the great storytellers of our time who connected with so many. My love and prayers are with his family, friends and loved ones."

Born on June 25, 1956, in New York City and raised in New Jersey, Bourdain was the son of a record-company executive and a New York Times editor. Bourdain said he fell in love with food as a boy on a family trip to Arcachon, France, just outside Bordeaux, when he tasted an oyster and realized how complex food could be.

Wine Spectator's Harvey Steiman profiled Anthony Bourdain in 2015.

As he told Wine Spectator in 2015 of his childhood, "Words were important. Things that felt good were valued. Food was always a part of that. If food was delicious, there was value attached to it. I didn't realize my upbringing was different from other kids', but it was."

After two years of college, he dropped out and began working as a line cook at seafood restaurants on the Massachusetts coast. He later graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and worked in numerous New York restaurants, struggling with alcohol and drugs. (He also wrote, penning two detective novels.) In the 1990s, however, Bourdain found his home as executive chef at Brasserie Les Halles, a casual steak bistro on Manhattan's east side.

Michael Batterberry, founder and editor of the influential culinary magazine Food Arts, became a regular at Les Halles. Having read the chef's two detective novels (they were well-reviewed but not best-sellers), Batterberry assigned him a story for Food Arts, "Mission to Tokyo."

Batterberry also encouraged Bourdain to submit an article to the New Yorker in 1999 about the underbelly of the restaurant world, titled "Don't Eat Before Reading This." The chef was shocked when they published it.

The story caught the eye of literary agents, and Bourdain wrote Kitchen Confidential, a memoir that revealed how hard chefs worked, how hard they partied and the pressures of the restaurant business. Fun and edgy, the book magnified the allure of chefs at a time when the "celebrity chef" was a new phenomenon. (Bourdain's book also made clear that much of our best food was cooked by hardworking immigrants who toiled 13-hour days on the line for little pay.)

Bourdain wrote several other books and became a TV personality. He spent two seasons on Food Network hosting A Cook's Tour and eight seasons as the host of No Reservations on the Travel Channel, highlighting international cuisine and unknown restaurants. He joined CNN for the popular series Parts Unknown in 2012, winning four Emmy Awards for Outstanding International Series.

Asked in 2015 how he'd like to be remembered, Bourdain told Wine Spectator, "Maybe that I grew up a little." He added, "That I'm a dad, that I'm not a half-bad cook, that I can make a good coq au vin. That would be nice. And not such a bad bastard after all."

—With reporting by Owen Dugan.

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