Anthony Bourdain, the outspoken celebrity chef, author and host of CNN’s Parts Unknown, has died at age 61.
CNN reported that Bourdain’s friend chef Eric Ripert found him unresponsive in his hotel room in eastern France and called his death a suicide. (The news came just three days after fashion designer Kate Spade killed herself .)
The New York Times and People reported Bourdain had been staying at Hôtel le Chambard in Kaysersberg, located in the Alsace region of France, near the German border. CNN confirmed he was there shooting footage for Parts Unknown.
Christian de Rocquigny du Fayel, the public prosecutor in nearby Colmar, told both outlets that Bourdain’s cause of death was suicide by hanging. He added, “At this stage, we have no reason to suspect foul play.”
CNN statement regarding the death of our friend and colleague, Anthony Bourdain: pic.twitter.com/MR1S5fP16o
— CNN Communications (@CNNPR) June 8, 2018
“It is with extraordinary sadness we can confirm the death of our friend and colleague, Anthony Bourdain,” CNN said in a statement. “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.”
Bourdain, who was born in New York and raised in New Jersey, graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and rose to nationwide prominence as executive chef at New York’s Brasserie Les Halles.
He began transitioning into the second phase of his career, turning a 1999 New Yorkerstory called “Don’t Eat This” into the best-selling book Kitchen Confidential, offering foodies a glimpse at what goes on behind the doors of their favorite restaurants and insider tips like why they should never order fish on a Monday. He was also frank about his past heroin use and the prevalence of substance-abuse issues in the culinary world. (Within hours of his death, Kitchen Confidential, which he wrote in the mornings before manning the sauté station, was in the top 20 on Amazon.com.)
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Kitchen Confidential spawned two TV series: a Food Network travelogue called A Cook’s Tour and a short-lived Fox sitcom based on his career and personal foibles, starring a then-up-and-coming Bradley Cooper.
He became a household name with his next series, the Travel Channel’s No Reservations, which followed him as he traveled the world in search of life-changing culinary and cultural experiences.
Viewing guide: The best episodes of ‘No Reservations,’ ‘Parts Unknown’
The show also sometimes made him a witness to history, like in 2006 when he and his fixer found themselves trapped in Beirut as the Israel-Lebanese conflict broke out. A decade later, Bourdain and President Obama supped together at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi, a meal that became known as the “noodle summit.”
In one of his final interviews with The Bergen Record‘s (201) Magazine, Bourdain explained that he focused more on taking risks than pleasing the audience. It paid off: Those gambles led to a dozen Emmy nominations and four wins.
“In my opinion, if you start thinking about what people like about the show, or who’s watching, you repeat yourself,” he said during an April phone conversation while shooting in Spain. “It’s very easy, I think, to give the people what they want. That’s why there are all these shows about the top 10 burgers, favorite diners, dives and drive-ins. That strikes a chord with people. Those are immensely popular shows.”
He continued, “Our credo, our motto, is to just never repeat ourselves if at all possible, to try to do something different, to take chances, to change the game as much as we can, whenever we can.”
Anthony Bourdain Q&A:Read one of the TV foodie’s final interviews
Despite his success on TV, he continued cranking out magazine articles and books, including 2006’s The Nasty Bits, 2007’s No Reservations: Around the World on an Empty Stomach and 2010’s Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook. He also put out two cookbooks: Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook: Strategies, Recipes, and Techniques of Classic Bistro Cooking in 2004 and Appetites in 2016.
He had his own publishing imprint, Ecco, through HarperCollins, which the company said would fold once its remaining titles are released, including We Fed an Island (due Sept. 11), in which fellow chef Jose Andres recounts efforts cooking for Puerto Rican survivors of Hurricane Maria.
Bourdain, known for his barbed tongue, didn’t spare his fellow celebrity chefs from his scathing commentary. Whether high-brow or low, they were all fair game to him. He slammed Food Network stars like Paula Deen, Rachael Ray and Guy Fieri and high-end chefs like Alice Waters and Alain Ducasse. Ray and Fieri later got their revenge at a raunchy roast in 2012.
He was also outspoken on political and social-justice issues. When the immigration debate reached a full boil, he defended Mexican and Central American restaurant workers as “the backbone of the industry.” Through his girlfriend, actress Asia Argento, who has accused Harvey Weinstein of assault, he became a prominent male activist in the Me Too movement.
In a Twitter statement posted Friday, Argento wrote, “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 would respect their privacy and mine.”
— Asia Argento (@AsiaArgento) June 8, 2018
Bourdain was married twice before beginning his relationship with Argento. He became a father at 50 in 2007 when he and his second wife, Ottavia Busia, welcomed daughter Ariane.
In a 2008 interview with the Associated Press, Bourdain had said that his daughter’s birth had changed his outlook on life. “I feel obliged to at least do the best I can and not do anything really stupidly self-destructive if I can avoid it,” he said.
He wrote in a 2015 CNN piece that he considered naming her Beirut: “She was, after all, conceived within two hours of returning from my first visit there.”
If you know someone who is thinking about suicide call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
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