Anthony Bourdain, whose memoir Kitchen Confidential set the gold standard for restaurant life memoirs and turned him into a celebrity and CNN host, has died at 61. CNN says that the cause of death is suicide.
"Bourdain was in France working on an upcoming episode of his award-winning CNN series 'Parts Unknown.' His close friend Eric Ripert, the French chef, found Bourdain unresponsive in his hotel room Friday morning," according to the cable news network.
Update: The NY Times reports that Bourdain hanged himself, "Mr. Bourdain was found in his hotel room at Le Chambard, a luxury hotel in Kaysersberg, a village in the Alsace region of eastern France, according to a prosecutor in the nearby city of Colmar. The prosecutor, Christian de Rocquigny du Fayel, said the cause of death was hanging. 'At this stage, we have no reason to suspect foul play,' he said."
Ripert gave a statement to the Times, "Anthony was a dear friend. He was an exceptional human being, so inspiring and generous. 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 statement regarding the death of our friend and colleague, Anthony Bourdain: pic.twitter.com/MR1S5fP16o
— CNN Communications (@CNNPR) June 8, 2018
After a couple fiction novels, Bourdain, then a chef at Les Halles, published his 2000 memoir Kitchen Confidential, which had the subtitle, "Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly." The book shared his experiences—through intoxicating prose—working in the intense, often crass environment of NYC kitchens, where all sorts of characters had to coexist to get food on the plates, even if everyone in the kitchen hated each other. He offered secrets, like never order the fish on Monday because of when supplies are delivered to restaurants (he later said it was fine to order fish on Mondays, but not the mussels in an Irish pub on Mondays). And there was also debauchery: Bourdain detailed his extensive drug use, drinking, and misdeeds.
The bestselling success of Kitchen Confidential led to further books, including A Cook's Tour, a loving, sincere dive into cuisines around the world. A Cook's Tour also become his first TV show, a Food Network program that sent Bourdain on a globetrotting journey to understand how different cultures approach food.
CNN then gave Bourdain a platform with Parts Unknown, which saw him interview President Obama in Vietnam:
And eating in Charleston with Bill Murray:
His embrace of decadence—he once said, "To me, life without veal stock, pork fat, sausage, organ meat, demi-glace, or even stinky cheese is a life not worth living."—and unadulterated opinions won him fans and haters (he ripped into James Corden for joking about Harvey Weinstein; Bourdain's partner, actress-director Asia Argento, is an outspoken Weinstein accuser). Bourdain was going to parlay his celebrity into a huge food market in Chelsea, but the project got scrapped in December.
Bourdain was never shy about discussing his dark past. In a New Yorker profile, he described his abuse of heroin and cocaine: "Occasionally, between fixes, he would find himself digging paint chips out of the carpet in his apartment and smoking them, on the off chance that they were pebbles of crack. Things grew so bad that Bourdain recalls once sitting on a blanket on Broadway at Christmastime, with his beloved record collection laid out for sale."
When asked in 2017 about how to achieve his success, Bourdain answered, "Fuck up. Drop out of college. Don’t concentrate. Do a lot of cocaine and heroin." And in a 2015 interview with Gothamist, he discussed the customer dissatisfaction with the food they are served: "This is why chefs drink. Most of my career wasn't in the good old days, it was the bad old days when you were punished for your best efforts. When if you worked really hard and went the extra mile you'd get the whole roasted fish sent back. They'd say "Eww, it's looking at me, can you cut the head off?? Can you fillet it? There're bones in it!" You always got compliments on the fucking filet mignon and not on the stuff you knew you were born to make, or good at. I'm sure most, if not all chefs, have experienced that sense of frustration."
He was also forthright about not being a "creative chef," thinking of himself more as an "ambassador for the culinary profession."
Bourdain recently shared photos from his trip to Hong Kong to film Parts Unknown, and shared pictures from the trip, which included Argento:
— Anthony Bourdain (@Bourdain) June 3, 2018
Television production is a tough business. Prior preparation prevents piss poor performance . On location with director @AsiaArgento and DP @dukefeng52 Chris Doyle in Hong Kong TONIGHT @PartsUnknownCNN pic.twitter.com/0od1mtOmsv
— Anthony Bourdain (@Bourdain) June 3, 2018
His most recent Instagram post shared a meal he was having in Alsace, France:
Bourdain's Twitter bio has one word: "Enthusiast."
Bourdain is survived by Argento and his daughter, Ariane, from his second marraige to Ottavia Busia.
If someone you know exhibits warning signs of suicide: do not leave the person alone; remove any firearms, alcohol, drugs or sharp objects that could be used in a suicide attempt; and call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional.