It was the first story on my roommate’s and my phones’ newsfeed Friday morning. My first thought was, this is fake news. This can’t be true. Anthony Bourdain isn’t dead.
Then another headline and another from CNN, the New York Times, Washington Post, ABC News, and more media outlets as we both poured our coffee and ate breakfast and we got ready for our respective days.
“It is with extraordinary sadness we can confirm the death of our friend and colleague, Anthony Bourdain,” CNN’s statement posted on Twitter. “His love of great adventure, new friends, fine food and drink and the remarkable stories of 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,” it concluded.
— CNN Breaking News (@cnnbrk) June 8, 2018
— CNN Breaking News (@cnnbrk) June 8, 2018
The New York Times followed up CNN’s confirmation contacting Christian de Rocquigny du Fayel, the prosecutor of the city of Colmar, in the Alsace region near the German border. Christian said Anthony’s death was being treated as a suicide. He had been found hanging in the bathroom of his room by one of the hotel’s receptionists at 9:10 a.m., June 8.
Soon after, Christian de Rocquigny du Fayel told the Times that their case was closed.
“There is no indication of any involvement by a third person, and we’re ready to give the body to his family,” she told the newspaper.
Anthony was in France filming an episode for his latest season of Parts Unknown.
We were stunned, confused, and saddened by the news that blanketed what should have been a good start to a pleasant weekend.
This wasn’t right. I shouldn’t have been writing about Anthony’s accomplishments right now. He had many good years ahead of him. Writing about his accomplishments should have been much longer with 20 or 25 more years treaded through continents and cities documented on TV and in books.
My roommate and I weren’t alone in our profound sadness. We were a part of the chorus of mourners that stretched around the globe. I am one of the many travel writers writing my version of his story.
An Unlikely Celebrity
Anthony was slogging away in the restaurant world as an executive chef at Manhattan’s Brasserie Les Halles when he submitted an unsolicited article to the New Yorker in 1999.
The article, “Don’t Eat Before Reading This,” was published and subsequently shook up the restaurant world, opened diner’s eyes into the gastronomical world behind their plates, and made him a cause celebre. It also led to his tell-all behind the scenes in the restaurant world, that shot him into stardom, although it also probably made him unpopular in some circles somewhere, the book was translated into more than two dozen languages.
In his later years, he admitted that some things he wished he hadn’t written. Especially, after eating some of the food that was cooked in less sanitary ways than in American kitchens with their quest for cleanliness or at least to pass inspections.
Popular or not, Anthony didn’t seem to care. He was focused, even as celebrity completely altered his life in an instant, on doing his work in an authentic and truthful way, he told NPR.
The book cemented his style of telling it how it is. Ever inquisitive, always seeking out the best of the less trodden world, he was the travelers’ traveler and the foodies’ hero.
Anthony went on to star in his own food centric travel shows, Food Network’s “A Cook’s Tour,” Travel Channel’s “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations” and “The Layover,” and CNN’s “Parts Unknown,” which he was in the process of shooting his 11th season when he died.
He was a bonified celebrity as a host of three different cable shows when his second bestseller, “Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook” was published in 2010.
Parts Unknown premiered in 2013 and went on to win five Emmy awards and a Peabody.
Anthony had a way about him that was honest and real. The Times described him as “unvarnished” and “compassionate” with his commentary on food and life.
In a 2005 interview with the newspaper, Anthony simply explained that his work isn’t complicated.
Although Anthony was a celebrity chef who had traveled to more than 100 countries, he was also known for drawing out and telling the stories of other people.
“Any stranger who shows an honest curiosity about what the locals think is the best food is going to be welcomed,” he said. “When you eat their food and you seem happy, people sitting around a table open up and interesting things happen.”
She had just watched an episode of one of his shows about Ethiopian chefs. She was so moved she called him in the middle of the night. Anthony was in Australia at the time, she said. However, he didn’t mind.
“I couldn’t say enough about that connection between the food and the culture and what I learned about Ethiopia in that hour,” Alice told the San Francisco Bay Area news station.
“He introduced the chefs and validated that person’s work and he did this around the world,” she continued.
Anthony wanted to suck the marrow out of the bone of life, as he described in “Kitchen Confidential.”
“Do we really want to travel in hermetically sealed popemobiles through the rural provinces of France, Mexico and the Far East, eating only in Hard Rock Cafes and McDonalds?” he wrote, reported the Times. “Or do we want to eat without fear, tearing into the local stew, the humble taqueria’s mystery meat, the sincerely offered gift of a lightly grilled fish head? I know what I want. I want it all. I want to try everything once.”
He also was the executive producer and narrator of the PBS’s show The Mind of A Chef, launched in 2012. The show took a journey following a chef or pair of chefs as it examined their beliefs and philosophies about the culinary arts through cooking, history, science, and travel.
In addition to his successful television career, Anthony had his own publishing imprint, Ecco, a division of HarperCollins. At the imprint, he curated books by other chefs and food writers as well as a forthcoming book by Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, who was imprisoned in Iran. Anthony was a vocal advocate for Jason.
Anthony also published crime novels.
#MeToo’s Male Ally
Within the past year, he took up the cause of the #MeToo movement in support of his longtime girlfriend Italian actress and director Asia Argento.
Anthony stood by Asia, 42, as she stood up and publicly accused Harvey Weinstein of multiple sexual assaults and for rape when she was 21-years-old in 1997, reported The Times.
He even reevaluated his own life and actions that might have contributed to the abuse of women during his career in the restaurant world and that might have inadvertently resulted from his memoir and candid expose of restaurants, he told Slate.
“I was so proud of her,” he told The Times. “It was absolutely fearless to walk right into the lion’s den and say what she said, the way she said it. It was an incredibly powerful moment, I thought. I am honored to know someone who has the strength and fearlessness to do something like that.”
Anthony and Asia met in Rome while he was filming an episode of Parts Unknown, reported CNN.
Harvey has continued to deny all accusations of “non-consensual sex” and pleaded not guilty to three felony charges earlier this week. The charges are unrelated to Asia’s accusations, according to media reports.
Asia was forced to leave Italy because of the Italian press brutal vilification of her following her accusations against Harvey.
“I stand unhesitatingly and unwaveringly with the women,” Anthony wrote on Medium in December 2017. “Not out of virtue, or integrity, or high moral outrage – as much as I’d like to say so – but because late in life, I met one extraordinary woman with a particularly awful story to tell, who introduced me to other extraordinary women with equally awful stories.”
Christiane called Anthony a “vital male partner” for women’s rights, on Twitter adding, “He spoke up publicly for us,” reported the BBC, noting that he was working on becoming an executive producer on her recent CNN series on the lives of women, Sex and Love Around the World.
Anthony didn’t stop speaking out on behalf of women when approached by reporters.
He told CNN, recalled when stories began to emerge in the food world about it being “a brutal, oppressive business that was historically unfriendly to women,” he didn’t back down. He was steadfast and dedicated to believing women no matter who the accused attacker was, even friend Mario Batali.
The 57-year-old chef, restauranteur, writer and television host was accused of sexually assaulting women in December 2017. Mario immediately apologized even though he couldn’t recall all of the reported incidents. It was too late, he was tarnished by the accusations and lost major business relationships.
“Look, no matter how much I admire someone or respected their work, I’m pretty much Ming the Merciless on this issue right now,” he told Trevor Noah, host of the “Daily Show.” “I’m not in a forgiving state of mind. I mean, that shit ain’t OK.”
“Right now, nothing else matters but women’s stories of what it’s like in the industry I have loved and celebrated for nearly 30 years,” Anthony wrote in an essay published on Medium, “and our willingness, as human beings, citizens, men and women alike, to hear them out, fully, and in a way that other women can feel secure enough, and have faith enough that they, too, can tell their stories.”
He told Trevor that he hoped men in the industry don’t only examine their own behavior, but also ask themselves if they ever saw anything or let anything they witnessed that wasn’t right slide.
Standing Up, Taking Responsibility
Anthony didn’t ask men in the restaurant industry to do anything that he wasn’t doing himself. He was asking those very questions of himself.
He also didn’t expect overnight change either. He wasn’t an optimist when it came to human nature, men’s nature especially, he told Poppy Harlow during an interview for CNN’s New Day, reported the media outlet.
“What we are learning now is that to stay silent has a real cost. … You will be asked what you did when you saw this. Whether you have a good heart or not, I think the reality of the situation in this rapidly changing field is that people will be forced to do the right thing,” he said.
Actress Rose McGowan, one of the women behind the #MeToo movement who along with Asia publicly accused Harvey of raping her and wrote about her experience in her book, “BRAVE” posted an emotional video responding to the news of Anthony’s death.
“You were so loved, the world is not a better place without you,” she wrote on Twitter.
The Not So Bad Boy of Chefs
Anthony Michael Bourdain was born in New York on June 25, 1956.
Anthony’s mother Gladys Bourdain, was an editor for The New York Times, and his late father, Pierre Bourdain, was an executive in the classical-music recording industry. Pierre died of a heart attack when he was 57-years old, reported a Times obituary.
He and his brother Christopher Bourdain grew up in Leonia, New Jersey.
After a family cruise to France on the Queen Mary, the only thing Anthony remembered was a bowl of vichyssoise, a basic potato-leek soup served cold. His love of food was ignited.
“It was the first food I enjoyed and, more important, remembered enjoying,” he wrote in his memoir.
Anthony started working in kitchens at an early age in Manhattan and Provincetown on the Cape in Massachusetts and eventually became executive chef at Brasserie Les Halles.
The restaurant closed in August 2017, but the building where its ghost remains has become a de facto gathering place for mourners to honor Anthony’s life and legacy by leaving mementos.
Brasserie Les Halles was long after a stint as one of the few boys at Vassar College, the mostly women college. He dropped out. Anthony went to the Culinary Institute of America in 1975 graduating in 1978, reported The Times.
Anthony described himself in his self-effacing way to NPR that he was a “happy dishwasher.”
That might be called into question as he has been very open about his battle overcoming heroin addiction during his 20s.
Anthony wrote in his breakout book, “In America, the professional kitchen is the last refuge of the misfit. It’s a place for people with bad pasts to find a new family.”
He worked his way up in the kitchen from a line cook and sous chef and ultimately to executive chef.
Anthony married twice. His first marriage ending in 2005. He married for the second and final time in 2017 to Ottavia Busia. The couple had a daughter, Ariane, now 11. They divorced in 2016.
He described Asia as the love of his life. The couple had been dating for nearly two years, reported The Times.
Fans, Friends, And Family Mourning
An outpouring of sadness spread like a tidal wave through news outlets and social media following CNN confirming Anthony’s death.
Fans and those closest to Anthony expressed their profound loss in tweets and video posts and talking to media outlets.
Eric Ripert, his friend and fellow chef and restaurateur who was traveling with Anthony in France, called him, “An exceptional human being, so inspiring and generous.”
In a statement to the Times which another version was tweeted later in the day Friday, he continued, “One of the great storytellers of our time who connected with so many. I wish him peace. My love and prayers are with his family, friends and loved ones.”
CNN’s Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour tweeted Anthony, “A huge personality, a giant talent, a unique voice, and deeply, deeply human.”
“My heart breaks for Tony Bourdain. May he rest in peace now. He was a friend, a collaborator, and family,” she wrote. “My heart goes out to his daughter and family, and his longtime partners and friends at ZPZ.”
Anthony’s mother, Gladys Bourdain, told The Times she had no indication that her son might have been thinking about suicide.
“He is absolutely the last person in the world I would have ever dreamed would do something like this,” said Gladys, who was a longtime editor at The Times.
She had no idea why her son would kill himself.
“He had everything,” she said. “Success beyond his wildest dreams. Money beyond his wildest dreams.”
However, Eric knew something was off with Anthony. She said he told her that, “Tony had been in a dark mood these past couple of days.”
Anthony is the second high-profile suicide this week. Earlier this week, celebrated fashion designer Kate Spade, 55, also took her own life.
Chefs, celebrities, foodies, travelers, and writers all expressed their gratitude and profound sorrow.
Journalist and author Goldie Taylor tweeted, “Anthony Bourdain mastered the art of uncovering, employing the kind of immersive journalism that informed new perspectives and gave new meanings.”
PBS’s “Places To Love” host Samantha Brown agreed in a response to his death in Travel and Leisure.
“There’s only one Anthony Bourdain and there will never be another,” Samantha wrote about the networks constantly looking for the “next Anthony Bourdain.”
Top Chef and restauranteur Preeti Mistry, who appeared on Anthony’s San Francisco Bay Area edition of Parts Unknown when he dined at her restaurant Juhu Beach Club in Oakland in 2015, tweeted, “I just can’t even. … Damn it. Damn it. Damn it. You showed us all there is to LOVE LIFE and its all pleasures. #AnthonyBourdain.” She ended her tweets quoting F. Scott Fitzgerald, “Show me a hero, and I’ll write you a tragedy … #RIPTony.”
Preeti closed Juhu Beach Club in late-2017 just before her book based on the restaurant, “The Juhu Beach Club Cookbook: Indian Spice, Oakland Soul” was published.
Her other venture, Navi Kitchen, is still serving up Indian-style pizza as well as breakfast and brunch. The restaurant opened in Emeryville, California in the spring of 2017.
Longtime editor of Gourmet Magazine Ruth Reichl said, “I’m completely devastated.”
The former restaurant critic for The New York Times called Anthony an editor’s dream, “He was professional. He was funny. He was always willing to rewrite” especially during Anthony’s early years he “could be awkward and withdrawn,” she told the Times.
“As a television personality… it was such a pleasure to watch him grow into a powerhouse, changing food television and inspiring millions of people,” she continued.
“He was unique and important, and I’m just so sad that he is gone,” she added. “Behind that swagger, there was always that tortured shy guy.”
Jordana Rothman, the restaurant editor of Food and Wine Magazine, remembered him for a small generosity.
“At a time in my career when people still looked through me at parties to see if someone more important was on the other side, Bourdain shook my hand and asked me what I care about,” she wrote on Twitter, reported The Times. “I’ve paid the gift forward in a thousand handshakes since.”
Model and cookbook author Chrissy Teigen also tweeted, “Unapologetic, passionate and one of the best storytellers on the planet. Thank you for making food so exciting. And always standing up for everything right.”
Critic and culture writer Alison Willmore agreed, adding, “Bourdain had one of those enviable voices that came through as strongly on the page as on screen – you could hear him in your head. And he had the best possible attitude toward travel – be curious, be respectful, listen, and eat the food you’re served when you’re a guest.”
Friend and fellow celebrity chef and Travel Channel host Andrew Zimmern agreed with Anthony’s mother telling the Times he had been in good spirits in recent months.
“The irony, the sad cruel irony is that the last year he’d never been happier,” Andrew tweeted. “The rest of my heart aches for the three amazing women he left behind. Tony was a symphony.”
Perhaps one of the most heartbreaking statements about his sudden death came from Asia who responded to the news in a statement on Twitter.
“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. My thoughts are with his family. I would ask that you respect their privacy and mine.”
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