When someone has been on television for as long as Anthony Bourdain has, viewers feel like they know the host personally. As a chef, author, and traveler, he thoughtfully transcribed his observations of the world and invited us to come along with him as he brought attention to people and places that had been forgotten by others. He began his career as a chef and ended his life an icon. It's hard to piece together the events that led to Bourdain's decision to leave this world, but the impact he had in his 61 years of life is obvious.
Bourdain Worked As a Chef In Manhattan
Anthony Bourdain knew he wanted to be a chef from the time he was young and fell in love with food while visiting his grandparents in France. He graduated from the Culinary Arts Institute of America in 1978 and began working at various restaurants.
He worked his way up to Executive Chef at Brasserie Les Halles in Manhattan. Throughout all of it, he was drinking heavily and trying any drug available. Still, his culinary talent was undeniable, and his curiosity for life grew with every place he traveled to.
"Your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park. Enjoy the ride."
Bourdain worked as a chef in kitchens throughout New York City in the '80s, and drugs were everywhere. Whereas most people would fall over with all the drugs he was putting in his system, Bourdain was not only able to function, but thrive in his chaotic lifestyle. He recalls that time in his life, saying, "We were high all the time, sneaking off to the walk-in refrigerator at every opportunity to 'conceptualize.' Hardly a decision was made without drugs.
"Cannabis, methaqualone, cocaine, LSD, psilocybin mushrooms soaked in honey and used to sweeten tea, secobarbital, Tuinal, amphetamine, codeine and, increasingly, heroin, which we'd send a Spanish-speaking busboy over to Alphabet City to get," he wrote in Kitchen Confidential. One of his mottos was, "Your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park. Enjoy the ride.”
His Heart Was Broken More Than Once
Bourdain's first marriage was to his high school sweetheart in 1985. The couple stayed together for 20 years before divorcing in 2005. They didn't have any kids together, and at this point, Bourdain's career was in full swing.
In 2007, he married his second wife, Italian MMA fighter Ottavia Busia. The couple welcomed their daughter a week before their vows, and it seemed that Bourdain had found the rock he needed in his life.
He Had a Passion For MMA
While his wife at the time was a professional MMA fighter, Bourdain wasn't too shabby himself. The culinary chef was a blue belt in Jiu-Jitsu and often attended UFC fights with Ottavia with cage side seats.
In 2016, he told Maxim, "It’s the last thing in the world I could have ever imagined wanting to do or enjoying. It appeals to some part of my brain that I haven’t visited before.” He won his first contest at the 2016 New York Spring International Open.
Being On The Road Is Tough On Relationships
Although there was a 22-year age difference between them, Bourdain and Busia both enjoyed mixed martial arts and had a love of rock music. They both had worked in the restaurant industry in New York City and met through Bourdain's friend Eric Ripert. Sadly after nine years together, it became too difficult to maintain a relationship with Bourdain traveling the majority of the year for work.
Ottavia Busia told Married to a Chef, "I remember once waking up in the middle of the night terrified because someone was in my bed. That someone was my husband, I had just forgotten that he was home." The couple split.
The Culinary Bad Boy
While other TV chefs appeared to work their tail off to gain fame and establish themselves, it seemed to come easy for Anthony Bourdain. His fan base exploded as people were drawn to his rock star attitude and bad boy demeanor. No one but Bourdain could slip in comments about drugs and debauchery between bites of risotto.
Of course, he brushed off the nicknames, saying, "You can call me the bad boy chef all you want. I'm not going to freak out about it. I'm not that bad. I'm certainly not a boy, and it's been a while since I've been a chef."
He Was Always Brutally Honest
Bourdain started his career revealing the dark side of the kitchen in his book Kitchen Confidential and he continued to speak his mind throughout his career. Bourdain has criticized other celebrity chefs for their lack of culinary authenticity and trying to commercialize the industry.
He also had it out for vegetarians, calling the lifestyle choice a "First World luxury" and has said, "Vegetarians are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit, an affront to all I stand for, the pure enjoyment of food."
Food Was His Escape and Comfort
Exhausted from the dark aspects of life, Bourdain would seek out food to feed his soul and let him leave his worries behind. The way he described food was as a cure for what ails you.
"For a moment, or a second, the pinched expressions of the cynical, world-weary, throat-cutting, miserable bastards we've all had to become disappears when we're confronted with something as simple as a plate of food."
He Loved Local "Peasant" Food
Wherever he went, around the world, Anthony Bourdain always sought out the local dishes of the community that told the story of where they came from. Whether it was New Orleans or Congo, Bourdain would eat with the locals and take the cameras with him. He wanted to inspire Americans to eat local street food when they travel and try to understand the culture they were visiting.
"Meals make the society, hold the fabric together in lots of ways that were charming and interesting and intoxicating to me. The perfect meal, or the best meals, occur in a context that frequently has very little to do with the food itself."
Anthony Bourdain's Final Interview
Writer Maria Bustillos first met Anthony Bourdain after she wrote about the chef for an issue of Eater. When she started a new website called Popula, she reached out to him again, hoping for a quick 15-minute interview. What she got was a warm two-and-a-half-hour conversation with Bourdain in a comfy bar that spanned numerous topics. At the time, she could have never imagined that this would be the last interviews Bourdain would give.
Bustillos published Bourdain's final interview in July 2018, in which she includes heartfelt commentary along with the raw transcripts, tangents and all. Bourdain and Bustillos' lengthy interview sheds light on the private and passionately talented man that he was. From the #MeToo movement and the political revolutions of the '60s to parenting and, of course, food's ability to bring people together — nothing was off the table.
He Humanized Places America Didn't Want to Talk About
One of things people will remember Bourdain for most is his extreme empathy. He truly believed that all lives were created equal, and wanted to expose and humanize Gaza and Iran.
Bourdain traveled with his Parts Unknown crew to the communist country of Laos where he spoke of the conflicts in the region while explaining to people that this area and these people's lives matter. He wrote, "Laos, like I said, is beautiful. It is a place, despite its government’s archaic policies and behavior, worth visiting and experiencing. It is—and feels like—a gentle place where one encounters many kindnesses. The wounds of war are still fresh in Laos—and still causing harm, both physical and psychological. The sooner they are healed, the better for those who live there, and the better for those of us who love to visit it."
Talent Runs In His Bloodline
Born in New York City, Bourdain grew up in Leonia New Jersey. His father worked in the music industry as an executive for Columbia Records while his mother was a staff editor for The New York Times.
As Bourdain's culinary career began to take off, he was quick to put it in writing, and compliment his skills as a chef with his knack for storytelling. His first book Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly received top reviews, and A Cook's Tour, published in 2002, was named Food Book of the Year in 2002 by British Guild of Food Writers.
He Theorized That Traveling Makes You A Better Person
While Bourdain struggled internally, he never stopped trying to be a better person. A great part of his life's work included studying humanity and participating in other cultures in an effort to better understand how we're not so different, after all.
He said, "If I am an advocate for anything, it is to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. Walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food. It’s a plus for everybody."
He Was Tuned Into The World, And It Troubled Him
They say ignorance is bliss, and perhaps Bourdain could attest to that. A deeply intelligent man, Bourdain would often fall into hopelessness trying to understand the world's problems that he saw first-hand, both in his home country in the U.S. and while traveling abroad. He's said, "I’m not that optimistic [about] the human race..."
“Life is complicated. It’s filled with nuance. It’s unsatisfying... If I believe in anything, it is doubt. The root cause of all life’s problems is looking for a simple [expletive] answer.” Chef Andrew Zimmern told the New York Times, "We have lost someone who was, in my opinion, the sharpest and keenest observer of culture that I have ever known.”
He Referenced Mortality Often
For many people who have watched his show, they have heard Bourdain speak of death on numerous occasions. On No Reservations, Parts Unknown, and The Layover, Bourdain would knock back drinks, light up a cigarette, and think aloud while the cameras rolled, contemplating life and death, and stewing in the sins of the world.
In the final episode of Parts Unknown, Bourdain discusses the country of Bhutan's culture, surrounding death. He tells his friend Darron Aronofsky, "[Here] It is considered therapeutic to think about death a few times a day... Life is but a dream."
Bourdain Has an 11-Year-Old Daughter, Ariane
When his daughter was born in 2007, he quit smoking cigarettes in hopes of living longer to be there for her. "I mean, I’ve had more time on this Earth than I probably deserve, and I enjoy cigarettes very much, but now I feel that I owe this child who loves me to at least try to live a little longer, you know?"
He was well aware of his vices in drinking and smoking, but they only appeared to negatively affect himself. Bourdain's kindness and ability to put himself in others' shoes was something many of his friends remember him for.
Ariane Also Loves Music
Much like her father, 11-year-old Ariane loves rock music. Just days after her father's untimely death, she took the stage at DROM in the East Village and performed at the School of Rock concert.
Ottavia Bourdain posted an image of her to Instagram on June 10th, and shared a caption directed to Anthony: "Our little girl had her concert today. She was amazing. So strong and brave. She wore the boots you bought her. I hope you are having a good trip, wherever you are."
The Political Climate Was Weighing Heavy on Bourdain
Bourdain always had his ears open when it came to politics. He closely watched what governments around the world were doing, and he especially felt uneasy about America's future in the last years of his life.
He told Eater, “I think it’s worth acknowledging that this is a country founded in violence, a country that has always worshipped outlaws, loners, cowboys, and people who got the things they got by the gun.” When he sat down with former President Obama for beers in Vietnam, and Bourdain asked him if the future would be okay for his daughter. Obama told him, "I think things are going to work out."
He Talked About His Internal Pain
Bourdain once said, "As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life — and travel — leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks — on your body or on your heart — are beautiful. Often, though, they hurt."
The hurt he carried with him was numbed by alcohol, but as relentlessly as Bourdain drank, the hurt refused to go away.
His TV Shows Were Massive Hits & Won Emmy's
Anthony Bourdain stopped working as a chef full-time and signed a contract with The Food Network to host A Cook's Tour. After 35 episodes, Bourdain moved to the Travel Channel to host No Reservations, which was a massive hit, running for eight seasons.
The show has received multiple Emmy nominations and won a Creative Arts Emmy for Outstanding Writing for Nonfiction Programming and Outstanding Informational Series or Special. He's also hosted hit series The Layover on the Travel Channel and Parts Unknown on CNN.
He Spent The Last Months of His Life Voicing Support For Women
In 2016, Bourdain began dating Italian actress, director, and activist Asia Argento. Argento is one of the leaders of the #MeToo movement and has been outspoken about Harvey Weinstein sexually assaulting her in the '90s. Throughout it all, Bourdain stood by her side.
They attended the 2018 Women In The World Summit together in April. Bourdain also wrote an essay posted on Medium which included, "In these current circumstances, one must pick a side," Bourdain wrote. "I stand unhesitatingly and unwaveringly with the women."
Bourdain Was Outspoken About The Unfair Treatment of Latinos in the Industry
While working in the kitchens of Manhattan, Bourdain cooked side-by-side with Latino immigrants. He recognized their culinary talent and their strong work ethic and was bothered by the way Latinos are often treated like second-class citizens in the U.S.
Bourdain wrote in an essay, "Just about every time I walked into a new kitchen, it was a Mexican guy who looked after me, had my back, showed me what was what, was there—and on the case—when the cooks more like me, with backgrounds like mine—ran away to go skiing or surfing—or simply flaked."
He Wanted Americans to Recognize the Value of Mexican Immigrants
While it's fair to say that Bourdain wasn't one of the biggest names in immigration rights, that's not to say that he didn't do whatever he could to bring attention to the subject in the U.S. Also in his essay, that was published on his Tumblr, Bourdain wrote, “Despite our ridiculously hypocritical attitudes towards immigration, we demand that Mexicans cook a large percentage of the food we eat, grow the ingredients we need to make that food, clean our houses, mow our lawns, wash our dishes, look after our children."
"As any chef will tell you, our entire service economy—the restaurant business as we know it—in most American cities, would collapse overnight without Mexican workers. Some, of course, like to claim that Mexicans are ‘stealing American jobs.’ But in two decades as a chef and employer, I never had ONE American kid walk in my door and apply for a dishwashing job, a porter’s position—or even a job as prep cook."
Although It Wasn't Obvious, Bourdain Spoke of Depression
Many people may have overlooked the times that Bourdain spoke about being depressed. His deep, soothing voice and worldly insight allowed viewers of his shows to escape reality and join Bourdain on his travels. As he narrated each episode, he shone a light on everything he encountered, both the heart-warming and the soul-wrenching. And maybe, you missed it.
"I understand there's a guy inside me who wants to lay in bed, smoke weed all day, and watch cartoons and old movies. My whole life is a series of stratagems to avoid, and outwit, that guy."
He Lived in the Moment with his Money For Most of His Life
Bourdain didn't have a savings account until he was 44-years-old. After graduating culinary school he worked 12 hour days, 5-6 days a week, and came home with around $120 each night. Then he would spend it.
Bourdain said, "I didn’t put anything aside, ever. Money came in, money went out. I was always a paycheck behind, at least. I usually owed my chef my paycheck: again, cocaine." He changed jobs about once a year, often quitting to escape to the Carribean and stay until he maxed out a credit card before going back to New York and finding more work.
However, after Kitchen Confidential was released, Bourdain's lifestyle changed, and he found financial stability.
He Got Health Insurance, Got Out of Debt, and Looked to the Future
Once in his forties, things began to change for Bourdain, lifestyle-wise. He realized he never wanted to owe money again, and made sure that he lived within his means. The year 2001 was the first time he had health insurance as an adult, and the security felt right. When his daughter was born in 2007, Bourdain made sure he saved money to take care of her.
He told WeathSimple, "I’d like my daughter and her mom looked after, both while I’m alive and after. They shouldn’t have to worry if something bad happens, so my investments and savings are based on that.... Life is too short."
A Source Said He Was Exhausted in France
Before he passed, Bourdain was in France filming Parts Unknown, and a close source told PEOPLE that his work schedule put him to the point of exhaustion. “His travel schedule was grueling, and he often seemed quite beat-up from it, as anyone would be. He’d put everything into the shoots and then go back to his room to isolate."
The crew was staying at a five-star hotel named Le Chambard in Kayserberg. Bourdain knew the chef at the restaurant, where he and Eric Ripert ate each night during their trip. In the morning, Bourdain would eat with chef Monsieur Nasti. Thursday night, however, Bourdain didn't come down for dinner.
Bourdain Stayed in His Room
While his good friend Ripert thought it was strange that Bourdain didn't come down from his room for dinner, he didn't look into it. With the intense filming schedule, along with all of the travel, Ripert and the crew brushed it off and thought he was resting.
Then in the morning, he didn't come down for breakfast. Chef Monsieur Nasti, Ripert, and the Parts Unknown crew hadn't heard from him in the last twelve hours or so. When Bourdain didn't answer his phone by 9:30 am, Ripert decided to check on him.
Bourdain Found Dead In His Paris Hotel Room
On the morning of June 8, Ripert found Bourdain had hanged himself in his room using the belt of his hotel room robe. The New York Times reported that after his death, Ripert told Bourdain's mother, "Tony had been in a dark mood these past couple of days."
He posted on Twitter later that day, "Anthony was my best friend. An exceptional human being, so inspiring & generous. One of the great storytellers who connected with so many. I pray he is at peace from the bottom of my heart. My love & prayers are also with his family, friends and loved ones."
He Didn't Take Any Drugs Or Alcohol That Night
Although he didn't hide the fact that he enjoyed drinking and smoking marijuana, and had a history of drug use, there were no drugs or alcohol found in Bourdain's system after he passed.
On June 22, 2018, Prosecutor Christian de Rocquigny told Reuters that he didn't find, "No trace of narcotics, no trace of any toxic products, no trace of medicines, no trace of alcohol." It's almost more saddening to know he had his head somewhat clear when he left the world.
His Girlfriend Asia Argento Is Heart Broken
Just weeks before he passed, Bourdain and his girlfriend Asia Argento traveled to Hong Kong to film an episode of Parts Unknown together, with Argento directing. They shared photos of their trip, looking madly in love.
On the day of his death, Argento posted to Instagram, "Anthony gave all of himself in everything that he did. His brilliant, fearless spirit touched and inspired so many, and his generosity knew no bounds. He was my love, my rock, my protector. I am beyond devastated."
Some People Wanted to Place Blame on Asia
Suicide is a terrible thing, and many people are struggling with the death of Anthony Bourdain. People following the breaking story searched for answers. Unfortunately, some people pointed fingers at his girlfriend Asia Argento.
Days before his death, while Bourdain was filming in France, Argento was in Rome. There, she was spotted walking down the street holding hands with Hugo Clemente, who worked with the actress on the #metoo movement. People speculated that Bourdain was upset by the photos and that had pushed him over the edge.
Rose McGowan Tells People To Back Off
Quick to arrive at the defense of Argento and the relationship the couple shared, Rose McGowan released a letter to help people better understand the situation. “When Anthony met Asia, it was instant chemistry," she wrote. "They laughed, they loved and he was her rock during the hardships of this last year.”
“[The pair] loved without borders of traditional relationships, and they established the parameters of their relationship early on. Asia is a free bird, and so was Anthony. Was. Such a terrible word to write. I’ve heard from many that the past two years they were together were some of his happiest and that should give us all solace.”
Asia Tried To Help Anthony Heal
While Asia Argento went through one of the hardest years of her life, reliving her terrible past encounters with Harvey Weinstein, Anthony Bourdain was there to support her through it all. She continuously thanked him for his support on social media and in interviews.
People may not have realized that she was supporting Bourdain just as much. His depression worsened and Argento fought to make sure he was receiving the treatment he needed. She posted the image above with the caption, "I'll stick with you baby for a thousand years, nothing's gonna touch you in these golden years, gold @anthonybourdain."
Anthony and Iggy Pop Were Friends
The "Godfather of Punk" Iggy Pop became one of Anthony Bourdain's friends. Bourdain sat down with the legend and interviewed him for GQ magazine. Reading the Q&A, it's clear that two have a lot in common, and Bourdain revealed some of his own feelings at the time, too.
At one point Bourdain tells the artist, "I have a real problem being content. When I finish a book I get that same sense of sort of loss and sadness." The interview takes a chilling turn, as the two discuss how they want to die. But classic Anthony, he finishes with hilarious imagery. " I'm hoping for a mob-style execution," Bourdain joked. "You don't want to be hit by, like, an ice-cream truck. Then caught up in the wheel well and dragged down the street with the ice-cream truck playing happy music. This is my worry."
Anthony Admitted He Was Often Angry
In the same interview with GQ, a writer asks Bourdain about the angry tone that's come through in his books and some of his shows' episodes. "Well, I'm often angry." Bourdain answered. I think some of Iggy's best music was angry music. I think it's a valid feeling. A lot of Raw Power and Fun House in particular, when I was an angry young man, those songs, some of those songs, I needed to hear those songs very, very badly."
"I was very unhappy, angry, frustrated. You've got to be careful about what you do with that anger. I think fear is a much more dangerous emotion. I think what we are seeing in America is more an ugly reaction to fear than anger. Anger is a byproduct of fear."
He Quoted Great Writers, Who Were Also Troubled
A great writer himself, Bourdain drew inspiration from other writers. Many of the writers he quoted also had vices, a brilliant mind, and an unfortunate habit of attempting to drink away the anger and despair.
He quoted Raymond Chandler, a great detective fiction writer who suffered from depression, drank heavily and had attempted to take his own life. Bourdain also quoted Hunter S. Thompson, another writer who was frustrated with the state of politics, fought tirelessly to expose the absurdity of America, and took his own life in 2005, at the age of 67.
Bourdain's Memory and Mission Live On
Upon Bourdain's passing, David Klion of The Nation published his reflection on the chef's life. "Bourdain understood that the point of journalism is to tell the truth, to challenge the powerful, to expose wrongdoing. But his unique gift was to make doing all that look fun rather than grim or tedious."
"[He] made it possible to believe that social justice and earthly delights weren't mutually exclusive, and he pursued both with the same earnest reverence."
People Pay Tribute to Bourdain at his Former Restaurant
As word spread that Anthony Bourdain had passed away, people left notes and flowers at Brasserie Les Halles. Bourdain worked as the executive chef at the French restaurant in Manhattan for many years.
It opened its doors in 1990, but even before Bourdain had passed, it was best known for being the restaurant where he was head chef. The restaurant, and Manhattan took great pride in being home to the legendary Anthony Bourdain.
A Brewery Pays Tribute to Bourdain
News of his death traveled quickly, and it hit the restaurant industry especially hard as their beloved chef was gone. Many restaurants and bars around the world were quick to pay tribute to the Culinary Bad Boy.
In Indianapolis, Indiana, Bier Brewery remembered Bourdain with a beautiful chalk mural above their taps. Many bars also use their sandwich boards to pay tribute with drawings and quotes.
Queens of the Stone Age Pay Tribute to Tony
Just hours after word of Bourdain's death, Josh Homme of the Queens of the Stone Age paid tribute to his fallen "brother." The band was playing at Denmark's Northside Festival as they grieved the loss of his life. "Sometimes, you lose somebody. And today we lost somebody, so this is for Tony," Homme announced.
He also tweeted, "I'm so sorry. I'm so destroyed. I love you brother. I miss you too much already. My love & condolences to Ariane & Ottavia."
Anderson Cooper Tears Up On CNN
Anthony Bourdain worked with CNN for many years, and CNN's Anderson Cooper had a difficult time saying goodbye. Cooper signed on to his show AC360 and bid farewell to the late journalist and host.
Anderson said, “The pain he must have been feeling, at least in that moment or in those moments, and the loneliness he must be feeling it’s just terribly sad to think about. And makes me very sad for him to have — to have a succumbed to that. He gave me hope for what one’s life can become, can be at 61.”