Food News

Anthony Bourdain, Revered Chef & Storyteller, Has Died

June  8, 2018

This morning, we received the heart-wrenching news that Anthony Bourdain, 61, was found dead in Strasbourg, France. He was on location shooting an episode of his award-winning food and travel show, Parts Unknown. According to CNN, the cause of death was suicide. Chef, colleague, and friend Eric Ripert found him in his hotel room, unresponsive.

We here at Food52 are heartbroken to have lost such a talent today, one who's taught us so much over the years.

Photo by Lwp Kommunikáció

The renegade chef, cookbook author, TV host, and writer rose to fame after the publication of Kitchen Confidential, a New York Times best seller, in 2000. The book drew from his days on the line at the New York City restaurant Les Halles, letting readers in on the gritty underbelly of the raucous and fast-paced restaurant world. After its success, he ventured into television and helmed shows on the Food Network, the Travel Channel, and CNN. His Emmy-winning show Parts Unknown inspired armies of travelers, writers, chefs, and food lovers alike.

He was revered for his intrepid explorations and habit of giving voice to those not often featured in mainstream television. He also empowered other writers. As John Birdsall once put it, "All of us who try to write intelligently about food, even Bourdain's critics, are working in a tradition he's built."

In light of this tragic development, a wide range of people have taken to social media to express their sadness.



Bourdain is survived by his 11-year-old daughter Ariane.

We’re working on a more detailed remembrance of Anthony Bourdain, involving you (the community). How has Bourdain influenced and inspired you? We’d love to hear your memories and stories in the comments section below, and be sure to check back next week for the story.

If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK).

28 Comments

Carolyn G. June 14, 2018
This is something I wrote on my Instagram, which is a diary of my vegan home cooking. As a server in a New York City chophouse and a vegan in my personal life, I have a unique perspective on Bourdain. I understand the monumental impact he had on our community, but I see his mental illness from the perspective of someone who alleviated her suicidal depression with the help of a plant based diet. <br />Here is what I wrote: <br />I’ve had a pot of gravy on the stove for nearly the duration of this heavy, disorienting week. It’s a deep muddy brown, velvet in texture and tinted red from wine. It’s base is trash, of course- a tea made from onion scraps, garlic skin, mushroom stems. The roux I make to thicken it consists of my cultured dill & cannabis butter and a gluten free flour blend made from rice and roots. Over the course of several days I’ve introduced reishi mushrooms, fresh tarragon and rosemary, bean stock, red wine, more butter, applewood smoked salt. The end result of all this - is just a pot of gravy. One component of a dish. <br />——————<br />Yesterday I watched the last episode of the last season of Parts Unknown: Rome. I see Tony digging into the anger, the brawny passion and violence of the Roman palate, and by extension, the white male psyche. I see him identify a cycle of beauty and decay, and then sit back and bask in it. I know he must have understood the intricate ways in which we truly are what we eat, and I’m reminded that we are all dancing just as close to the edge. <br />——————-<br />The gravy I made added a bit of flavor to some caramelized onions, which I stirred into quinoa/corn spaghetti, topped with marinated artichoke hearts, garlic scapes, and soy-based parmesan. The skin from the onions I ate will be the base of next week’s gravy: this is the cycle I choose to engage in. <br />——————<br />I am so grateful to Anthony Bourdain for showing us the world. For putting himself in places I never could, so that I can watch from my couch while my gravy simmers. His ability to hold space for people as they truly are is unparalleled, his style marked by a radical acknowledgement of all the light and all the darkness in our world. My heart is shattered, however, because in order to show us the sad, broken parts of the world, it seems he had to sacrifice himself to them. <br />——————<br />All my love to all the incredible chefs, line cooks, prep cooks, food runners, bussers, servers, bartenders, managers, sommeliers, hosts, vendors, and food makers I have known since I joined this circus. Thank you for having me. <br />——————<br />
 
smpsailor June 11, 2018
I am truly heart sick about the death of Anthony Bourdain.<br />Russell and I would watch his shows and would talk about the food we wanted to taste,the places we wanted to see,the people we wanted to meet...<br />After losing Russell,Bourdain's shows were a comfortable place for me.I could watch some that Russell and I shared or some that were new and I never felt sad.I felt connected,to far off places, Anthony Bourdain, and to my late husband...<br />I am heart sick for his daughter...roughly the same age as mine when she lost her father.<br />I am heart sick for his fans like me who enjoyed his laid back cool guy style .<br />I am heart sick for him, his personal,private pain proved too much for him ...<br />Enjoy ,chef all the seafood towers and good local booze you want, you are free.<br />God speed,chef,God speed.💔
 
Hilary June 11, 2018
In 2004 I was working as a Cook 3 when I read Les Halles for the first time. ( I read Kitchen Confidetial after, laughing to tears) I had been in the culinary industry for a while. I started out when I was 12 in the pit, like most of us do, and working up. By this time I was starting to feel like what was I doing? When I read the lines he wrote in Les Halles, "Ultimately you must respect your ingredients, however lowly they might be. Just as you must respect your guests, however witless and unappreciative they might be. Ultimately you are cooking for yourself." He didn't inspire me to become a chef, but his words and humour are what kept me one. And still do.
 
Upsidedownpineapple June 11, 2018
I am a long haul flight attendant flying for over a decade to the far corners of the world. Anthony inspired me to leave the comfort of my hotel rooms and look for my next food adventure. Because of him I had wonderful experiences, finding fantastic food from Ghana to Tokyo to Budapest to Argentina and everywhere in between. I always hoped that one day I might be lucky enough to come across Anthony in a small restaurant somewhere off the beaten path and share a drink or two. He gave me the courage to say “Table for one please” and not feel like the loneliest girl in the world. <br />My horizons and my palate were forever broadened in the most wonderful way, thank you Anthony.
 
ChefJune June 11, 2018
Used to frequently go to Brasserie Les Halles back in the day when he was cooking there. He was always authentic. And a damn good cook, to boot.<br /><br />I especially loved Parts Unknown because with all the balderdash that's been going on in our country the past several years, he reminded me that there are indeed people out there who really care about the world we live in and the people in it.I gave me hope for our country/planet.<br />And for those of you who think he was a show-off.... you have no idea who he was at all. I'm sorry for you.<br />I'll be cooking from his recipes the next few weeks while I process this...
 
pierino June 11, 2018
Chef June, you said it well. Bourdain was a hero to me for all those reasons as well as a muse for my own writing about food and travel. I'm glad to say I met the man and was able to cook for one of his book events. I got the bad news when I woke up in a hotel room in Sacramento and turned on CNN. I was crushed.<br />I remember dining at Les Halles with a friend back before Kitchen Confidential. We happened to be passing by and it looked authentically French. But one thing I remember about Tony in person was his hinky style of walking which was not quite a swagger but genuine.<br />
 
Emily June 10, 2018
I always felt inspired and moved after watching one of Bourdain's shows, particularly Parts Unknown. His storytelling somehow made me feel better about the world and humanity in general. I loved his ability to celebrate cultural differences while also reminding us of our commonalities - all through the lens of food. He will be missed tremendously.
 
Annada R. June 10, 2018
He was one of the first chefs who attracted me to food-related reading and writing as I fell in love with his no-holds-barred, in-your face writing style. He is cracking his usual joke at himself and the world, just wish I could read or hear it. Hope and pray that gets some peace now!<br />
 
Yvonne June 10, 2018
Bourdain inspired me to try the small local restaurants when traveling. To try the tiny hole-in-the-wall shops with only one dish and paper plates and one plastic chair outside. He taught me to explore my palate and challenge my comfort zone. The culinary world will not be the same without him.
 
cv June 10, 2018
For those of you who are missing his voice, here is a Commonwealth Club interview from late 2007:<br /><br />https://www.commonwealthclub.org/events/archive/podcast/anthony-bourdain-chef-author-tv-host-no-reservations<br /><br />less than a year after the birth of his daughter (now 11 years old) and before he went to CNN.<br /><br />I listened to this show live when it was broadcasted nearly 11 years ago and replayed it this evening.<br /><br />What I got from Tony was never something as formulaic as the instructions to make ____ dish like a typical recipe.<br /><br />It was about traveling the world and using food as a commonality to connect with other human beings.<br /><br />This radio interview is not for softies, he slams vegetarians and some high profile celebrity chefs, even endorses one who has fallen from grace.<br /><br />Will you learn anything about cooking from this radio broadcast? No. Could you learn something about traveling or living? Maybe.<br /><br />There are thinly veiled frowns at what is now today's rockstar chef culture. A flippant passing reference to the end of his life.<br /><br />In the end, one walks away with the understanding that his occupation is storyteller, not chef. In the interview, he admits with relief that someone else is cooking Thanksgiving dinner, not him.<br /><br />Much of Bourdain's public persona from the past 15-20 years is distilled into this 1 hour interview.<br /><br />There are no pretty Food52 beauty shots, there are no recipes, no Serious Eats food nerd dissertations, no hawking of merch, no stupid "the Internet has gone wild over pink unicorn pork belly beignets drenched in gold sprinkles" social media B.S.<br /><br />Heck, the guy even says why he doesn't co-opt newly discovered food "secrets" from his international travels and dump them into the Les Halles menu upon his return.<br /><br />If you are looking for 2018 rockstar type chef comments, Bourdain's Commonwealth Club interview will be a complete disappointment.<br /><br />For others, some might recognize the enormity of the loss of this great narrative, storytelling voice. <br /><br />The American food industry has suffered a tremendous loss, because Bourdain did not focus on the mechanics of making a particular dish but instead wanted to connect to the people and culture who made them.<br /><br />Not so sure if there's any active American food writer who does this. As far as I can tell, this is the end of an era.
 
BerryBaby June 10, 2018
cv, thank you! Beautiful’
 
SandraH June 11, 2018
Yes, thank you for this, cv. It’s been difficult to believe over the past few days that he’s gone. It feels like there is a big gap out there. Anthony Bourdain was an extraordinary person, honest and passionate about food and culture and the people he met and learned from.
 
gingerroot June 12, 2018
Thank you, cv, for sharing this.
 
Panfusine June 9, 2018
bought his book out of curiosity at a bookstore in Mumbai in 2002, and then got hooked on watching Kitchen Confidential . This was way before I even knew what the heck blogging even was, leave alone about food. He taught me to proudly embrace the comfort foods of childhood, - ingredients, techniques, tools & traditions that I had started looking down on, in the hopes of trying to appear 'cool'. That food is the most subjective aspect of life and the power to unify. I owe it to him that he helped me shatter any inhibitions wrt culinary boundaries and inculcating respect and complete acceptance for food from all over the world in an almost spiritual sense. Rest in Peace.
 
BoulderGalinTokyo June 13, 2018
Well written, Panfusine, He will certainly be missed but not his influence.
 
quiche'n'tell June 9, 2018
His ability to suck up the marrow of life, to speak from his gut, to empathise with all his heart and to connect with people and cultures in the far corners of the world earned my respect and admiration. The man cooked, looked, wrote, spoke and lived as only a true rockstar could. I hope he is finally at peace. My world is a little less without him in it.
 
stephanieRD June 8, 2018
He inspired me in such a way- in travel, in food, and in people. His shows and his words ignited more passion in my desire to travel and be daring in the kitchen. His talent to cultivate such work that showed us how we are all so different and yet so similar, and our basic needs to be fed and fed well. I hope he knows how impactful his life has been. <br /><br />It makes me really sad that someone with such ability and talent suffered from so much pain. I hope he is at peace, and that we develop more awareness and acceptance that mental health is just as important, if not more so, than physical health.
 
Faith B. June 8, 2018
Anthony Bourdain was one of the first, many years ago now, to teach me to taste food with every sense; to value and respect all the hands that had touched what I was getting ready to eat, whether it was from a street cart, a gourmet restaurant or my own kitchen; and to reach and risk with my own cooking skills. I read his books and watched him travel the world and admired him as a man of authentic heart who lived fully into his vocation with food and people. Peace to you brother. I will always be grateful for your gifts.
 
Mary A. June 8, 2018
Such sad, tragic news. Coincidentally, I have Kitchen Confidential sitting on my nightstand to reread almost 20 years after it was published. I will now have tinges of grief reading it. I am just so so terribly sorry
 
Joan S. June 8, 2018
Heartbroken and devastated! I liked his mix of adventure, truth, and politics. We still need him. Wish he didn't have to leave us.<br />
 
Traci S. June 8, 2018
I completely agree!
 
CJBO33 June 8, 2018
I was a line cook in NJ/NY. Kitchen Confidential was written by one of us, about us. It was the book I used to tell parents to read when they said their child wanted to be a “chef.” Through the years, he kept me connected to this past, and inspired me to travel, to keep an open mind, and open palate. Unfortunately, in the end, his demons caught up with him. So sad.
 
Mark F. June 8, 2018
I am gutted, devastated, heartbroken. He was a hero to me and so many around this beautiful, crazy world. Damn, damn, damn.
 
Kristen M. June 8, 2018
Thank you for this piece, Valerio, and for gathering quotes that show the ways Anthony's work affected people far beyond the food media and restaurant worlds. I'm looking forward to reading more thoughts from the Food52 community and team as they continue to flow in.
 
Karen F. June 8, 2018
Kitchen Confidential probably saved me years of grief. His firm advice to all of us who ever wanted to open a restaurant for any reason - he shot them all down with facts, figures and humor. I will miss him immensely. He was a rock star.
 
BerryBaby June 8, 2018
Such sad news. Anthony didn’t influence me, I’d say he entertained me. One of kind with his adventures and boldness. He took chances, explored the unknown with such ease. I admired him for all of it.<br />
 
FS June 10, 2018
I totally agree, AB was an insufferable show-off. His bad boy persona was laughable, and to me he was a perfect example of a baby boomer in the throws of a particularly savage midlife crisis. Now, before anyone howls in protest: I am sorry he died, esp. by his own hand. It's a tragedy, but he did it to himself. It remains to be seen why he killed himself, by all accounts he had a lot to live for.
 
Lindsay-Jean H. June 13, 2018
Hi all, I wanted to remind everyone that while we're generally all for engaging in spirited debate, this is one of those times in which it would be nice to consider that many of your fellow community members are mourning a great loss. Please focus on civility and choose your words carefully.