Anthony Bourdain, R.I.P.
Whenever you travel to a new city and are looking for the best places to eat, you most likely check out Anthony Bourdain’s recommendations first. The celebrated American chef, TV host and writer was more than just a man who knew his way around the kitchen, but, for many viewers and readers, Bourdain was our own personal culinary travel guide. Sadly, Bourdain has died at age 61. CNN, the network behind Bourdain’s food travel series Parts Unknown, has confirmed the cause of death was by suicide.
The Parts Unknown host was found in France, where he was filming a new episode of his CNN series. Bourdain’s close friend and fellow chef Eric Ripert found Bourdain unresponsive in his France hotel room on Friday morning. The network released the following statement:
It is with extraordinary sadness we can confirm the death of our friend and colleague, Anthony Bourdain,” the network said in a statement Friday morning. “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.
But Bourdain was so much more than a chef; for many casual food lovers, he became an entry point into the vast landscape of culinary world. His travel series No Reservations, The Layover, and Parts Unknown – the latter of which was honored with a Peabody Award in 2013 – introduced audiences to cuisines across the world. I know I’ve personally sought out restaurants per Bourdain’s recommendations, or found myself sitting in a New York City Chinatown spot only to look up and see Bourdain’s photo on the wall and immediately remember the episode he shot inside.
But Bourdain’s TV series were never just about food; his episodes expanded to teach viewers about the local culture and politics of the areas he visited. His trip to Japan in Parts Unknown wasn’t just about sushi, but also found Bourdain flipping through pages of Japanese octopus porn and dropping hilarious (and relatable) one-liners about how much he hated Nickelback. The infamous and Emmy nominated No Reservations Beirut episode, which found Bourdain and his crew in the city in the midst of the Israel/Lebanon conflict in the summer of 2006, is a must-see episode.
Bourdain was also an exceptionally talented writer. His New York Times best-seller Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly is filled with horror stories about the uglier parts of the cooking industry, from heavy drinking benders to drugs and more. It’s a great dive into the darker sides of the cooking world. His 2006 The Nasty Bits, a collection of his magazine writing, includes pieces recounting the trips seen on his shows. His Hunter S. Thompson-esque essay about his trip to Las Vegas is one of my favorites, one where he cruises into down in a Cadillac and reluctantly admits how great Bouchon’s French fries are compared to his famous Les Halles pomme frites.
It’s an unfortunate loss, not just for the food industry, but for anyone who enjoys funny, incisive and brutally honest commentary about the joys of eating and the hardships behind the lifestyle that comes with making great food. Now is as good a time as any to revisit No Reservations on Amazon or binge Parts Unknown on Netflix, the latter of which is set to leave the streaming service in just a week. Or maybe go get yourself a tasty batch of French fries in Bourdain’s honor. Bourdain will surely be missed.