Anthony Michael Bourdain (/bɔːrˈdeɪn/; June 25, 1956 – June 8, 2018) was an American celebrity chef, author 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 many professional kitchens during his career, which included several 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 Manhattan on June 25, 1956. His mother was Gladys (née Sacksman) and his father was Pierre Bourdain. His younger brother, Christopher, was born a few years later. Anthony grew up living with both of his parents and described his childhood in one of his books: "I did not want for love or attention. My parents loved me. Neither of them drank to excess. Nobody beat me. God was never mentioned so I was annoyed by neither church nor any notion of sin or damnation."
Bourdain's love of food was kindled in his youth while on a family vacation in France when he tried his first oyster from 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 at 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.
In the 1970s, while attending high school at Dwight-Englewood School, Bourdain dated Nancy Putkoski. He described her as "a bad girl", older than him and "part of a druggy crowd". She was a year above him, and Bourdain graduated one year early in order to follow Putkoski to Vassar College since they had just started admitting men. He studied there between the ages of 17 and 19. He then attended the Culinary Institute of America, a 15-minute drive from Vassar. The couple married in 1985, and remained together for two decades, divorcing in 2005.
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, he 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.
Bourdain's 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 3-season run as a judge on The Taste and consequently switched his travelogue programming to CNN to host Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown. Although 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, filming 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 2006, Bourdain published The Nasty Bits, a collection of 37 exotic, provocative, and humorous anecdotes and essays, many of them centered around food, and organized into sections named for each of the five traditional flavors, followed by a 30-page fiction piece ("A Chef's Christmas").
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. 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.
His first appearance was in "Thanksgiving" recorded in November 2006 episode of Season 2.
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, but restarted towards the end of his life.
In 2007, Bourdain published No Reservations: Around the World on an Empty Stomach, covering the experiences of filming and photographs of the three first seasons of the show and his crew at work while filming the series.
On April 20, 2007, he married Ottavia Busia, who later became 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 put strain on the relationship. 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.
His second appearance was in the first episode of Season 3 in June 2007 judging the "exotic surf and turf" competition that featured ingredients including abalone, alligator, black chicken, geoduck and eel.
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.
His articles and essays appeared in many publications, including in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Times of the Los Angeles Times, The Observer, Gourmet, Maxim, and Esquire. 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 published Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook, a memoir and follow-up to the book Kitchen Confidential.
In 2010, he appeared on Nick Jr.'s Yo Gabba Gabba! as Dr. Tony, part of which was included in the movie Roadrunner.
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.
In July 2011, the Travel Channel announced 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.
In September 2011, Ecco Press announced that Bourdain would have his own publishing line, Anthony Bourdain Books, which included 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, with art by Langdon Foss.
In May 2012, Bourdain announced that he was 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 focused on other cuisines, cultures and politics and premiered on April 14, 2013.
After a visit to Palestine in 2013, Bourdain stated, "The world has visited many terrible things on the Palestinian people, none more shameful than robbing them of their basic humanity." He opened the episode of Parts Unknown on Jerusalem with the prediction that "By the end of this hour, I'll be seen by many as a terrorist sympathizer, a Zionist tool, a self-hating Jew, an apologist for American imperialism, an Orientalist, socialist, a fascist, CIA agent, and worse."
Bourdain met Italian actress Asia Argento in 2016 while filming the Rome episode of Parts Unknown. In October 2017, Argento told in an article of the New Yorker that she had been sexually assaulted by Harvey Weinstein in the 1990s. After being criticised for her account in Italian media and politics, Argento moved to Germany to escape what she described as a culture of "victim blaming" in Italy. Argento delivered a speech on May 20, 2018, following the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, calling the festival Weinstein's "hunting ground", alleging that she was raped by Weinstein in Cannes when she was 21. She added, "And even tonight, sitting among you, there are those who still have to be held accountable for their conduct against women." Bourdain supported her during that period. On June 3, 2018, Bourdain tweeted a video where the team was celebrating during the production of the show with Argento as director, him and Chris Doyle. In August 2018, it emerged that Bourdain paid actor Jimmy Bennett a $380,000 settlement in October 2017 for his silence so that Argento could avoid negative publicity for allegedly sexually assaulting Bennett in 2013 when he was 17 and Argento was 37.
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".
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 and bun cha at a small restaurant in Hanoi. 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; it aired on the last months of each year. The series moved from PBS to Facebook Watch in 2017.
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.
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.
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 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.
In June 2019, Éric Ripert and José Andrés announced the first Bourdain Day as a tribute to Bourdain. In the same month, the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) established a scholarship in Bourdain's honor.
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.
In October 2019, a documentary film about Bourdain to be directed by Morgan Neville and produced by CNN Films and HBO Max was announced. The film, titled Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain, had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival on June 11, 2021, and was released by Focus Features on July 16, 2021.