Anthony Bourdain, the wild child of cooking and writing, has died of an apparent suicide at age 61. Bourdain was in France working on an episode for his show Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown for CNN.
The network confirmed the news in a statement: “It is with extraordinary sadness we can confirm the death of our friend and colleague, Anthony Bourdain. 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.”
A chef, writer and storyteller like no other, Bourdain earned fame and infamy for his brutally honest tongue and sharp wit. A cultural relativist, Bourdain constantly challenged himself and his viewers, forcing us out of our comfort zone to look at food and the people who cook and eat them with a compassionate perspective. He travelled to some of the most troubled parts of the world, like Libya and Gaza, keenly aware of his responsibility to respect his hosts, as well as entertain his guests.
Anthony Bourdain had a soft spot for India’s explosive culinary landscape. He visited and ate his way through Rajasthan and Kolkata for No Reservations and Mumbai and Punjab for Parts Unknown. Characteristically honest when he needed to be, Bourdain felt a special connection with the lush fields and fresh kulchas of Punjab and said about the mackerel he ate on the streets of Kerala: “It looks kinda like hell but it’s so fresh and crispy and moist and delicious!”
Named the “Elvis of bad boy chefs" by the Smithsonian, Anthony Bourdain began his career as a dishwasher from New Jersey before working his way up the ranks to the position of Executive Chef at the famed Brasserie Les Halles in 1998. While cooking up a storm in the culinary world, Bourdain also kept up his other passion – writing. After a few mob murder mystery novels, he wrote an international bestseller Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly in 2000. He followed this up with a second bestseller, A Cook's Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisines in 2001, which lead to his first food and world-travel television show. A Cook's Tour ran for 35 episodes on the Food Network in 2002 and 2003. More success followed with his next television show Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations. In 2013 Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown launched on CNN. Season 11 of the show premiered on the network only last month.
Even as Bourdain travelled the world exploring cuisines and cultures for his television shows, he continued to write bestselling books - including No Reservations: Around the World on an Empty Stomach, Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook, Anthony Bourdain’sLes Halles Cookbook: Strategies, Recipes, and Techniques of Classic Bistro Cooking and The Nasty Bits.
Along the way, Bourdain received practically every award the industry has to offer – The Peabody Award for Parts Unknown, several Emmy Awards for No Reservations, and a Webby Award for his blog.
His dream project was to open the Bourdain Market at Pier 57 in New York City, a giant food hall with dozens of vendors celebrating street food from cultures around the world.
The IFN studio is still reeling from this tragic news. His cooking, writing and compassion for the marginalised populations for whom he regularly campaigned will always remain an inspiration to us. The only words to end with are the Enthusiast’s own: “Food is everything we are. It's an extension of nationalist feeling, ethnic feeling, your personal history, your province, your region, your tribe, your grandma. It's inseparable from those from the get-go.”