Anthony Bourdain Dies at 61


Celebrated chef, author and TV personality Anthony Bourdain has died at 61. The acclaimed host CNN's food travelogue series Parts Unknown was found dead a suspected suicide in his hotel room in France on Friday morning (June 8) according to a CNN report.

“It is with extraordinary sadness we can confirm the death our friend and colleague, Anthony Bourdain,” the network said in a statement. “His love great adventure, new friends, fine food and drink and the remarkable stories the world made him a unique storyteller. 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.”

Bourdain, who was in France work on an episode Unknown, was found unresponsive by his friend French chef Eric Ripert. A graduate the Culinary Institute America, Bourdain got his start as a chef, rising to the rank executive chef at New York's acclaimed French Brasserie Les Halles, then expanding into writing with his best-selling 2000 book Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly. The book pulled back the cover on the ten intense, cutthroat world restaurants and set the stage for the next phase Bourdain's career, in which he would travel the world sampling and exploring global cuisine while delving into the lives the local population.

He moved into television in 2002 with the Food Network series A Cook's Tour, before jumping to the Travel Channel as host Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations (which ran from 2005-2013 and won two Emmy Awards), then switching to CNN in 2013 for Parts Unknown. The latter show won a Peabody Award in 2013 for “expanding our palates and horizons in equal measure.”

“He's irreverent, honest, curious, never condescending, never obsequious,” the judges said in awarding the honor to the chef who reveled in his bad boy image, ten sprinkling in liberal pranity and sexual references on Reservations and making no bones about his taste for drinking and smoking, as well as past drug use. “People open up to him and, in doing so, ten reveal more about their hometowns or homelands than a traditional reporter could hope to document”; season 11 the series premiered on CNN last month. Bourdain's suicide comes just days after that fashion designer Kate Spade, who was found hanged in her New York apartment an apparent suicide on Tuesday (June 5). 

Bourdain was born in New York on June 25, 1956, to Columbia Records classical music executive Pierre Bourdain and New York Times staff copy editor Gladys Bourdain. After graduating from the Culinary Institute in 1978 he worked at a string New York restaurants, including the Supper Club and Sullivan's, before taking the executive chef post at Les Halles in 1998. His writing career was launched in 1997 with the New Yorker piece “Don't Eat Before Reading This,” which unblinkingly pulled back the curtain on the hectic, ten dangerous job working in a kitchen.

“Good food, good eating, is all about blood and organs, cruelty and decay,” he wrote in the visceral, emotive style that would become his trademark. “It's about sodium-loaded pork fat, stinky triple-cream cheeses, the tender thymus glands and distended livers young animals. It's about danger — risking the dark, bacterial forces beef, chicken, cheese, and shellfish… Pressional cooks belong to a secret society whose ancient rituals derive from the principles stoicism in the face humiliation, injury, fatigue, and the threat illness.”

CNN President Jeff Zucker sent an internal memo to staff on Friday morning praising Bourdain's talents and spirit. “Tony was an exceptional talent,” he wrote. “A storyteller. A gifted writer. A world traveler. An adventurer. He brought something to CNN that no one else had ever brought before. Tony will be greatly missed not only for his work but also for the passion with which he did it.”

“It's just a horrible, horrible shock on every level because on his show, there is a celebration life and all different cultures,” CNN host Alisyn Camerota said, according to The Hollywood Reporter, recalling his recent visit on their show to promote Parts Unknown. “The idea that he was suffering somehow is really heartbreaking.” 

Camerota said despite his brash on-screen persona, Bourdain was “reserved,” though very open about his history with drug addiction. “The idea that he was able to share some his demons, that he fought drug addiction and that he fought heroin, everyone really appreciates. Because to know that someone went through it and came out the other side is really helpful. Obviously, I think all us wish that we had known whatever was happening in the past days,” she said.

In addition to being the inspiration for the title character in the short-lived Fox sitcom Kitchen Confidential — whose title character, “Jack Bourdain,” was played by then unknown actor Bradley Cooper — Bourdain appeared on Bravo's Top Chef reality cooking series and as a main judge on season 8 Top Chef All-Stars. He was also a writer and consultant on the HBO series Treme, which featured a number characters who worked as chefs and cooks in various New Orleans restaurants.

In addition to Kitchen Confidential,  Bourdain wrote the 2001 book A Cook's Tour, The Nasty Bits (2006) 2010's Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World Food and the People Who Cook and half a dozen others, as well as articles for The New Yorker, The New York Times, Gourmet, The Los Angeles Times and the Financial Times.

Bourdain divorced his high school girlfriend, Nancy Putkoski, in 2005 after 20 years marriage and had a daughter, Ariane, with his second wife, Otta Busia. He began dating Italian actress and filmmaker Asia Argento in 2017 after meeting her on Parts Unknown. He publicly came out in support Argento earlier this year when she came forward as one the alleged victims disgraced former movie producer Harvey Weinstein, saying he was “proud and honored to know you” and that she had done “the hardest thing in the world.”

The CDC recently released a study reporting that the suicide rate in the U.S. has risen by 30 percent in almost every state since 1999. If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

More on this story as it develops.