Anthony Bourdain, the celebrity chef, best-selling author and star of numerous culinary shows, died Friday in an apparent suicide. He was 61.
He died in France, where he was working on his CNN show “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown,” which he had hosted the past five years. He was found unresponsive in his hotel room by friend and chef Eric Ripert, CNN said.
A prosecutor in France said Bourdain apparently hanged himself in a luxury hotel in the small town of Kayserberg. French media quoted Colmar prosecutor Christian de Rocquigny du Fayel as saying that “at this stage” nothing suggests another person was involved. However, investigators were verifying the circumstances of Bourdain’s death at the Le Chambard hotel. Multiple efforts by the Associated Press to reach the prosecutor were not immediately successful.
“It is with extraordinary sadness we can confirm the death of our friend and colleague, Anthony Bourdain,” CNN 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.”
President Donald Trump offered his condolences just before leaving for the Group of Seven summit in Quebec. “I enjoyed his shows,” Trump said. “He was quite a character.”
Bourdain’s death came just days after fashion designer Kate Spade, 55, was found dead Tuesday in her Manhattan home. Her death was ruled a suicide.
Bourdain, who was born in New York City and raised in Leonia, New Jersey, launched what would become a multi-hyphenate media career in the early 2000s, with best-selling books like “Kitchen Confidential,” then launched a TV career in 2002 with “A Cook’s Tour” on the Food Network.
The first Bourdain hit, “No Reservations,” launched in 2005 on the Travel Channel; it was a breakout hit for the network, so much so that Fox launched a sitcom called “Kitchen Confidential,” starring a then relatively unknown Bradley Cooper, largely based on Bourdain’s life and career.
An outsized personality, Bourdain had a media profile built to match: He produced a dozen shows — including one, recently with fellow CNN star Christiane Amanpour, “Sex & Love Around the World.” He appeared on dozens of shows over the years and continued to publish books and articles in various national publications.
Bourdain, who had been in a relationship with Italian actress Asia Argento, also became a vocal figure in the #MeToo movement, after Argento alleged multiple sexual assaults by Harvey Weinstein in the Ronan Farrow Pulitzer Prize-winning New Yorker story on the disgraced movie mogul.
“It’s been a huge part of our life,” Bourdain told Indiewire for a story posted last week. “As you can probably imagine, it’s been very hard and continues to be very hard for Asia, but at the same time, it’s inspiring. She’s at the center of a conversation with a lot of women who want to share. That’s something she takes really, really seriously.”
Argento had also been invited to present an award at the Cannes Film Festival, where she said, “I was raped by Harvey Weinstein here at Cannes.”
Bourdain said, “From the second she said she’d been invited to present an award, I knew it would be a nuclear bomb,” he said. “I was so proud of her. 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 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,” Argento posted on Twitter.
Bourdain was an original. He was flat broke at the age of 44, and had nursed a voluminous drug habit before then. Like Hunter S. Thompson, Bourdain was an inveterate traveler, writer and speaker. And what he spoke was remarkable: He was hugely opinionated, with a brilliant verbal capacity for the bon mot and the wicked put-down, of himself as well as others. He had long-running brawls with fellow celebrity chefs. He castigated fast-food empires, while also gleefully indulging in fast food. His favorite restaurant? He once said it was In-N-Out Burger, a chain in Los Angeles.
He was especially funny. Informed by Conan O’Brien on an episode of his late night show that he was a “world famous chef,” Bourdain deadpanned: “ . . . the Chuck Wepner of chefs,” a reference to the journeyman boxer.
His writing gifts were considerable. His first book, “Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly,” was a sensation, unlike anything anyone had ever read — unless what someone had read was by Thompson. Writing about his zonked-out life as a New York chef, he had this to say: “Hardly a decision was made without drugs, pot, quaaludes, cocaine, LSD, psilocybin mushrooms soaked in honey used to sweeten tea, Seconal, Tuinal, speed, codeine and increasingly heroin, we’d send a Spanish-speaking boy over to Alphabet City to get.”
The book led to the Fox TV deal, and Cooper played a character in the 2005 show named Jack Bourdain — who, like the chef, was wild, unrestrained and incapable of handling money. (A joke in the pilot: Cooper’s character calls a credit card company to ask if he can pay his bill by using another credit card.)
Bourdain’s TV profile almost instantly shot him to worldwide fame. Tall, lanky, gravel-voiced, with a head of nearly white hair, he had a near-hypnotic hold on the camera’s gaze. He talked a great deal about food, of course, on his many shows, but more often than not, talked about himself and his insatiable curiosity for the world about him. He was an infectious personality, and impossible not to watch.
And to watch was to laugh. On a recent “Today” profile, he spoke of his pet grievances — things like “pumpkin spice,” or “farm-to-table.”
“Farm-to-table bothers me,” he said. “I’m in a restaurant and I’m pretty certain your vegetable grew up on a farm and I’m eating them on a table. Do I really need that on a T-shirt?”
Bourdain is survived by his only child, Ariane, who was born in 2007, from his second marriage to Ottavia Busia, which ended in divorce in 2016.
With The Associated Press
If you are thinking about suicide or are concerned about a loved one, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). See a list of other hotlines and resources at suicidepreventionlifeline.org.