Anthony Michael Bourdain (/bɔːrˈdeɪn/; June 25, 1956 – June 8, 2018) was an American chef, book author, journalist, and travel documentarian who starred in programs focusing on the exploration of international culture, cuisine, and the human condition. Bourdain was a 1978 graduate of The Culinary Institute of America and a veteran of a number of professional kitchens in his long career, which included many years spent as an executive chef at Brasserie Les Halles in Manhattan. He first became known for his bestselling book Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly (2000).
Anthony Michael Bourdain was born in New York City on June 25, 1956, the oldest of two sons of Gladys (née Sacksman) and Pierre Bourdain. Although he was not raised in a specified religion, his father was Catholic, while his mother was Jewish. Bourdain stated that, though he was considered Jewish by Judaism's definition, "I've never been in a synagogue. I don't believe in a higher power. But that doesn't make me any less Jewish, I don't think." His family was not religious either. At the time of Bourdain's birth, Pierre was a salesman at a New York City camera store, as well as a floor manager at a record store. He later became an executive for Columbia Records, and Gladys was a staff editor at The New York Times. Bourdain's paternal grandparents were French; his paternal grandfather emigrated from Arcachon to New York following World War I. Bourdain's father spent summers in France as a boy and grew up speaking French. Bourdain spent most of his childhood in Leonia, New Jersey. In a 2014 interview, Bourdain talked about how in the 1960s, after seeing films, he would go to a restaurant afterwards with friends to discuss the film. In his youth, Bourdain was a member of the Boy Scouts of America.
Bourdain's love of food was kindled in his youth while on a family vacation in France when he tried his first oyster on a fisherman's boat. He graduated from the Dwight-Englewood School—an independent coeducational college-preparatory day school in Englewood, New Jersey—in 1973, then enrolled at Vassar College, but dropped out after two years. He worked in seafood restaurants in Provincetown, Massachusetts, while attending Vassar, which inspired his decision to pursue cooking as a career.
Bourdain attended The Culinary Institute of America, graduating in 1978. From there he went on to run various restaurant kitchens in New York City, including the Supper Club, One Fifth Avenue, and Sullivan's.
A former user of cocaine, heroin, and LSD, Bourdain wrote in Kitchen Confidential of his experience in a trendy SoHo restaurant in 1981, where he and his friends were often high. Bourdain said drugs influenced his decisions, and that he sent a busboy to Alphabet City to obtain cannabis, methaqualone, cocaine, LSD, psilocybin mushrooms, secobarbital, tuinal, amphetamine, codeine and heroin.
Bourdain married his high school girlfriend, Nancy Putkoski, in 1985, and they remained together for two decades, divorcing in 2005. On April 20, 2007, he married Ottavia Busia, a mixed martial artist. The couple's daughter, Ariane, was born in 2007. Bourdain said having to be away from his family for 250 days a year working on his television shows was a strain. Busia appeared in several episodes of No Reservations, notably the ones in her birthplace of Sardinia, Tuscany, Rome, Rio de Janeiro and Naples. The couple separated in 2016. In 2017, Bourdain began a relationship with the Italian actress Asia Argento, who he met when she appeared on the Rome episode of Parts Unknown.
In the mid-1980s, Bourdain began submitting unsolicited work for publication to Between C & D, a literary magazine of the Lower East Side. The magazine eventually published a piece that Bourdain had written about a chef who was trying to purchase heroin in the Lower East Side. In 1985, Bourdain signed up for a writing workshop with Gordon Lish. In 1990, Bourdain received a small book advance from Random House, after meeting a Random House editor. His first book, a culinary mystery Bone in the Throat, was published in 1995. He paid for his own book tour, but he did not find success. His second mystery book, Gone Bamboo, also performed poorly in sales.
In 1998, Bourdain became an executive chef at Brasserie Les Halles. Based in Manhattan, at the time the brand had additional restaurants in Miami, Washington, D.C., and Tokyo. Bourdain remained an executive chef there for many years, and, even when no longer formally employed at Les Halles, maintained a relationship with the restaurant, which described him in January 2014 as their "chef at large." Les Halles closed in 2017, after filing for bankruptcy.
His first food and world-travel television show A Cook's Tour ran for 35 episodes on the Food Network in 2002 and 2003. In 2005, he began hosting the Travel Channel's culinary and cultural adventure programs Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations (2005–2012) and The Layover (2011–2013). In 2013, he began a three-season run as a judge on The Taste, and concurrently switched his travelogue programming to CNN to host Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown. Though best known for his culinary writings and television presentations, along with several books on food and cooking and travel adventures, Bourdain also wrote both fiction and historical nonfiction. On June 8, 2018, Bourdain died by suicide while on location in France for Parts Unknown.
The acclaim surrounding Bourdain's memoir Kitchen Confidential led to an offer by the Food Network for him to host his own food and world-travel show, A Cook's Tour, which premiered in January 2002. It ran for 35 episodes, through 2003.
In July 2005, he premiered a new, somewhat similar television series, Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, on the Travel Channel. As a further result of the immense popularity of Kitchen Confidential, the Fox sitcom Kitchen Confidential aired in 2005, in which the character Jack Bourdain is based loosely on Anthony Bourdain's biography and persona.
In July 2006, he and his crew were in Beirut filming an episode of No Reservations when the Israel-Lebanon conflict broke out unexpectedly after the crew had filmed only a few hours of footage for the food and travel show. His producers compiled behind-the-scenes footage of him and his production staff, including not only their initial attempts to film the episode, but also their firsthand encounters with Hezbollah supporters, their days of waiting for news with other expatriates in a Beirut hotel, and their eventual escape aided by a fixer (unseen in the footage), whom Bourdain dubbed Mr. Wolf after Harvey Keitel's character in Pulp Fiction. Bourdain and his crew were finally evacuated with other American citizens, on the morning of July 20, by the United States Marine Corps. The Beirut No Reservations episode, which aired on August 21, 2006, was nominated for an Emmy Award in 2007.
Bourdain appeared in an episode of TLC's reality show Miami Ink, aired on August 28, 2006, in which artist Chris Garver tattooed a skull on his right shoulder. Bourdain, who noted it was his fourth tattoo, said that one reason for the skull was that he wished to balance the ouroboros tattoo he had inked on his opposite shoulder in Malaysia, while filming Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations. He was a consultant and writer for the television series Treme.
Bourdain appeared five times as guest judge on Bravo's Top Chef reality cooking competition program: first in the November 2006 "Thanksgiving" episode of Season 2, and again in June 2007 in the first episode of Season 3, judging the "exotic surf and turf" competition that featured ingredients including abalone, alligator, black chicken, geoduck and eel. His third appearance was also in Season 3, as an expert on air travel, judging the competitors' airplane meals. He also wrote weekly blog commentaries for many of the Season 3 episodes, filling in as a guest blogger while Top Chef judge Tom Colicchio was busy opening a new restaurant. He next appeared as a guest judge for the opening episode of Season 4, in which pairs of chefs competed head-to-head in the preparation of various classic dishes, and again in the Season 4 Restaurant Wars episode, temporarily taking the place of head judge Tom Colicchio, who was at a charity event. He appeared as a guest judge in episode 12 of Top Chef: D.C. (Season 7), where he judged the cheftestants' meals they made for NASA. He was also one of the main judges on Top Chef All-Stars (Top Chef, Season 8). He made a guest appearance on the August 6, 2007 New York City episode of Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern, and Zimmern himself appeared as a guest on the New York City episode of Bourdain's No Reservations airing the same day. On October 20, 2008 Bourdain hosted a special, At the Table with Anthony Bourdain, on the Travel Channel.
Bourdain was known to be a heavy smoker. In a nod to Bourdain's two-pack-a-day cigarette habit, Thomas Keller once served him a 20-course tasting menu which included a mid-meal “coffee and cigarette,” a coffee custard infused with tobacco, with a foie gras mousse. Bourdain stopped smoking in 2007 for his daughter.
His articles and essays appeared in many publications, including in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Times of London, the Los Angeles Times, The Observer, Gourmet, Maxim, and Esquire (UK) magazines; Scotland on Sunday, The Face, Food Arts, Limb by Limb, BlackBook, The Independent, Best Life, the Financial Times, and Town & Country. His blog for the third season of Top Chef was nominated for a Webby Award for Best Blog (in the Cultural/Personal category) in 2008.
In 2010, he appeared on Nick Jr.'s Yo Gabba Gabba! as Dr. Tony. In 2011, he voiced himself in a cameo on an episode of The Simpsons titled "The Food Wife", in which Marge, Lisa, and Bart start a food blog called The Three Mouthkateers. He appeared in a 2013 episode of the animated series Archer (S04E07), voicing chef Lance Casteau, a parody of himself. In 2015, he voiced a fictionalized version of himself on an episode of Sanjay and Craig titled "Snake Parts Unknown".
Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly (2000), a New York Times bestseller, was an expansion of his 1999 New Yorker article "Don't Eat Before Reading This." A prequel to the book, Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook, was published in 2010.
The Travel Channel announced in July 2011 that it would be adding a second one-hour, 10-episode Bourdain show to be titled The Layover, which premiered November 21, 2011. Each episode featured an exploration of a city that can be undertaken within an air travel layover of 24 to 48 hours. The series ran for 20 episodes, through February 2013. Bourdain executive produced a similar show hosted by celebrities called The Getaway, which lasted two seasons on Esquire Network.
Ecco Press announced in September 2011 that Bourdain would have his own publishing line, Anthony Bourdain Books, which would include acquiring between three and five titles per year that "reflect his remarkably eclectic tastes". The first books that the imprint published, released in 2013, include L.A. Son: My Life, My City, My Food by Roy Choi, Tien Nguyen, and Natasha Phan, Prophets of Smoked Meat by Daniel Vaughn, and Pain Don't Hurt by Mark Miller. Bourdain also announced plans to publish a book by Marilyn Hagerty.
In 2012, Bourdain co-wrote the original graphic novel Get Jiro! along with Joel Rose; its art was by Langdon Foss.
In May 2012, Bourdain announced that he would be leaving the Travel Channel. In December he explained on his blog that his departure was due to his frustration with the channel's new ownership using his voice and image to make it seem as if he were endorsing a car brand, and the channel's creating three "special episodes" consisting solely of clips from the seven official episodes of that season. He went on to host Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown for CNN. The program focuses on other cuisines, cultures and politics and premiered April 14, 2013.
In 2015, Bourdain joined the travel, food, and politics publication Roads & Kingdoms as the site's sole investor and editor-at-large. Over the next several years, Bourdain contributed to the site and edited the Dispatched By Bourdain series. Bourdain and Roads & Kingdoms also partnered on the digital series Explore Parts Unknown, which launched in 2017 and won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Short Form Nonfiction or Reality Series in 2018.
Bourdain practiced the martial art Brazilian jiu-jitsu, earning a blue belt in August 2015. He won gold at the IBJJF New York Spring International Open Championship in 2016, in the Middleweight Master 5 (age 51 and older) division.
President Barack Obama was featured on the program in an episode filmed in Vietnam that aired in September 2016. The two talked over a beer at a local Vietnamese restaurant. The show was filmed and is set in places as diverse as Libya, Tokyo, the Punjab region, Jamaica, Turkey, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Far West Texas and Armenia.
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. The series moved from PBS to Facebook Watch in 2017. From 2013 to 2015 he was an executive producer and appeared as a judge and mentor in ABC's cooking-competition show The Taste. He earned an Emmy nomination for each season.
In 2017, Bourdain became a vocal advocate against sexual harassment in the restaurant industry, speaking out about celebrity chefs Mario Batali and John Besh, and in Hollywood, particularly following his then girlfriend Asia Argento's sexual abuse allegations against Harvey Weinstein. Bourdain accused Hollywood director Quentin Tarantino of "complicity" in the Weinstein sex scandal.
Bourdain's principal occupation between 2002 until his death in 2018 was a series of food and travel shows. Bourdain described the concept as, "I travel around the world, eat a lot of shit, and basically do whatever the fuck I want". Nigella Lawson noted that Bourdain had an, "incredibly beautiful style when he talks that ranges from erudite to brilliantly slangy".
In early June 2018, Bourdain was working on an episode of Parts Unknown in Strasbourg, with his frequent collaborator and friend Éric Ripert. On June 8, Ripert became worried when Bourdain had missed dinner and breakfast. He subsequently found Bourdain dead of an apparent suicide by hanging in his room at Le Chambard hotel in Kaysersberg near Colmar.
Following the news of Bourdain's death, various celebrity chefs and other public figures expressed sentiments of condolence. Among them were fellow chefs Andrew Zimmern and Gordon Ramsay, and former astronaut Scott Kelly. CNN issued a statement, saying that Bourdain's "talents never ceased to amaze us and we will miss him very much." Former U.S. President Barack Obama, who dined with Bourdain in Vietnam on an episode of Parts Unknown, wrote on Twitter: "He taught us about food—but more importantly, about its ability to bring us together. To make us a little less afraid of the unknown." U.S. President Donald Trump also expressed his condolences to Bourdain's family. On June 8, 2018, CNN aired Remembering Anthony Bourdain, a tribute program.
Christian de Rocquigny du Fayel, the public prosecutor for Colmar, said Bourdain's body bore no signs of violence and the suicide appeared to be an impulsive act. Rocquigny du Fayel disclosed that Bourdain's toxicology results were negative for narcotics, showing only a trace of a therapeutic non-narcotic medication. Bourdain's body was cremated in France on June 13, 2018, and his ashes were returned to the United States two days later.
In August 2018, CNN announced that it would broadcast a final, posthumous season of Parts Unknown, completing its remaining episodes using narration and additional interviews from featured guests, and two retrospective episodes paying tribute to the series and Bourdain's legacy.
A collection of Bourdain's personal items were sold at auction in October 2019, raising $1.8 million, part of which is to support the Anthony Bourdain Legacy Scholarship at his alma mater, The Culinary Institute of America. The most expensive item sold was his custom Bob Kramer Steel and Meteorite Chef's knife, selling at a record $231,250.