Looking at the Life and Legacy of Anthony Bourdain
Viewers and fans were shocked to hear of the tragic passing of celebrity chef and TV host Anthony Bourdain in 2018. During his time entertaining foodies here on Earth, Bourdain impacted many lives by showcasing cultures and cuisines from all over the world.
Read on to discover more about Bourdain’s highs and lows and learn how a raw oyster changed the trajectory of his life. Here’s a look at the life and legacy of Anthony Bourdain.
Born on June 25, 1956, in New York City, the celebrity chef and travel documentarian was raised in suburban New Jersey. He grew up loving literature and rock music. The weird combo makes sense when you realize his mother was a copy editor for The New York Times and his dad was a music executive at Columbia Records.
Love of Comics
Before discovering his passion for food, Bourdain wanted to be a comic book artist. He could draw, so he tried illustrating graphic novels for publication in the 1970s. Unfortunately, the publishers didn’t believe he was good enough to actually be published.
Getting His Start
In his teens, Bourdain got his start in the kitchen, but it wasn't working as a chef. He worked as a dishwasher at the legendary Lobster Pot restaurant in a tiny town on Cape Cod. He learned the hard way that he had to move quickly while still making sure the dishes came out spotless.
Battles with Addiction
Unfortunately, while continuing to work in Provincetown in his early 20s, Bourdain became addicted to heroin and experimented with crack cocaine. The addiction took the chef to a pretty low point in his life.
Working His Way Up
After getting away from drugs, Bourdain spent the rest of his 20s, 30s and 40s working his way up through the ranks at various restaurants in New York City. He worked at Supper Club, One Fifth Avenue and Sullivan's, among others.
At the turn of the new millennium, life completely changed for Bourdain. He shot to superstardom after the release of his nonfiction book Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly. The book served as a continuation of a very popular article Bourdain wrote for The New Yorker in 1999.
A Cook’s Tour
The success of Kitchen Confidential sparked a second book titled A Cook's Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisines. This book focused on exotic food and his travel exploits around the world. It also led to the development of a television show by the same name on the Food Network.
After his fallout with the Food Network, Bourdain sold footage he shot with Spanish chef Ferran Adria to the Travel Channel. That footage became the pilot episode of his show with the network called No Reservations.
Becoming a Dad
In 2007, Bourdain and his second wife, Italian mixed martial artist Ottavia Busia, welcomed their daughter, Ariane. Ariane's birth made Bourdain rethink a lot of his past life decisions. "In retrospect, I don’t know that I would do that today — now that I’m a dad or reasonably happy," Bourdain told People when talking about jumping off cliffs into the water for the Travel Channel.
Giving Up Cigarettes
Although Bourdain gave up drugs in his early 20s, it was common to see him smoke cigarettes through most of his career. In fact, during an episode of A Cook’s Tour, chef Thomas Keller prepared a special "coffee and cigarettes" break in the middle of a 20-course tasting menu. The dish was a coffee and tobacco-infused custard paired with a foie gras mousse.
Although his passion was food, Bourdain also dedicated time to writing. In 1985, he attended a writing workshop organized by editor Gordon Lish to learn how to hone his craft. In 1990, he received an advance from Random House to write a crime novel that takes place in the restaurant world. Titled Bone in the Throat, the book was released in 1995.
His Own Publishing Line
Beginning in 2011, Bourdain received his own publishing line with the HarperCollins imprint Ecco Press. It was appropriately called Anthony Bourdain Books and released nonfiction titles "by people with strong voices who are good at something and speak with authority," according to the HarperCollins website. The books were specifically curated by Bourdain himself.
Writer for Treme
Bourdain signed on as a television writer for David Simon and Eric Overmyer’s post-Katrina, New Orleans-based series Treme, which aired on HBO. As part of the staff, Bourdain was responsible for the series’ restaurant-centric storylines, which often included cameos from real-life celebrity chefs such as Emeril Lagasse, Eric Ripert and Tom Colicchio.
Bourdain won many nominations and awards for his cooking, books and television shows. In 2001, he was named Food Writer of the Year by Bon Appétit magazine for Kitchen Confidential. A year later, A Cook's Tour was named Food Book of the Year by the British Guild of Food Writers.
The television host had plenty of other gigs and appearances outside of his own shows. Between 2012 and 2017, he served as narrator and executive producer for several episodes of the award-winning PBS series The Mind of a Chef. He also served as an executive producer and judge for the cooking competition show The Taste.
Entering Parts Unknown
In May 2012, Bourdain announced he would be leaving the Travel Channel to work on other ventures. This move was mainly due to his frustration with the channel's new ownership and their use of his voice and image "as if he were endorsing a car brand."
All Seven Continents
Many people don’t get to travel outside of their home countries, let alone to all seven continents. Bourdain was lucky, and extensive traveling over the course of his career had taken him to every continent to explore different cultures. Yes, even Antarctica.
The Bourdain Market
While traveling the world for his shows, Bourdain always loved the large food markets in many of the locations. He wanted to develop an experience like that of his own. The TV host led efforts to create a huge food hall, tentatively (and appropriately) named Bourdain Market, on Pier 57 on Manhattan’s West Side.
Questionable Foodie Tricks
When traveling, most people visit travel sites to find good places to eat. Well, Bourdain had his own clever trick. He encouraged fellow foodies to "provoke nerd fury online" by visiting foodie websites with discussion boards.
The Practice of Jiu-Jitsu
Fans who regularly watched Bourdain knew that the TV host was in pretty good shape. You have to be healthy to have the energy and strength to constantly travel all over the world. Bourdain had an incredible exercise routine that helped with that.
Fighting for What’s Right
Bourdain regularly used his platform to speak on human rights issues. He was one of the first supporters of the Human Rights Campaign Chefs for Equality amicus brief in the Masterpiece Cakeshop Supreme Court case. In 2014, he also worked with the Human Rights Campaign on its Americans for Marriage Equality campaign.
His Favorite Place
Bourdain traveled to many places over the course of his life, but one city always had his heart — Tokyo. He took his first trip to the Japanese city in 1998 when he was still working at Les Halles and wasn’t famous. He was overseeing the opening of a new location there, and he fell in love with the city’s culture and cuisine.
Where He Refused to Go
For a man who has traveled to the biggest cities and the most remote places, Bourdain had one country that was in his "No Fly Zone." It wasn’t an outrageous or scary location. In fact, tourists go there all the time. The one place on his list where he simply refused to go was Switzerland.
Likes and Dislikes
As a top chef and taster of cuisine from all over the globe, Bourdain knew what he liked and what he despised when it came to food. Interestingly, he loved macaroni and cheese from fast food joints as well as meals from Shake Shack, KFC and Popeyes.
A Moment of Vulnerability
Although Bourdain seemed to be on top of the world when it came to his life, the TV host was wrestling with inner demons. Fans got an inside glimpse during an episode of Parts Unknown that aired in November 2016.
Price of Fame
Over time, those who knew Bourdain and worked with him closely could see that fame was taking a toll on him. People on his crew recognized that the host began to change as he became more and more popular. He didn’t have time to really enjoy anything, and he always had to move quickly to get new content for the show.
In early June 2018, Bourdain was working on an episode of Parts Unknown in Strasbourg, France. He was traveling with his friend Éric Ripert, who became worried when Bourdain missed dinner and breakfast.
After the news of Bourdain's death circulated through the world, fans, celebrity chefs and other notable figures paid tribute to the chef and TV host in various ways. Among them were fellow chefs Andrew Zimmern and Gordon Ramsay. Fans gathered for vigils outside Bourdain’s now-closed former place of employment, Brasserie Les Halles.
Exaggerated Net Worth
When the contents of Anthony Bourdain's will were made public, people were shocked at the host’s reported net worth. Although estimates previously put his net worth at somewhere around $16 million, his will totaled only $1.2 million. Bourdain himself had once admitted that his reported net worth was highly overstated.
A Fitting Farewell
Shooting for season 12 of Parts Unknown was in progress when Bourdain passed away. In August 2018, CNN announced that it would broadcast a final posthumous season of Parts Unknown as a tribute to the TV host. With a premiere date of September 23, 2018, the episodes featured Bourdain traveling in Kenya, Spain, Indonesia and Texas.