×

Anthony Bourdain Dies at 61

Anthony Bourdain, the television personality and writer who shot to fame with his culinary-driven globe trotting, has died by suicide. He was 61.

CNN, the network for which Bourdain hosted the popular “Parts Unknown,” a food-focused travel series, confirmed the news.

“It is with extraordinary sadness we can confirm the death of our friend and colleague, Anthony Bourdain,” the network said in a statement on 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.”

According to the network, Bourdain was in France working on an upcoming episode of his CNN series. His friend, French chef Eric Ripert, found him unresponsive in his hotel room on Friday morning. His death comes days after fashion designer Kate Spade hanged herself in an apparent suicide.

Bourdain was better known for his writing and television work than he was for his culinary creations. After toiling for years in kitchens around Manhattan and as executive chef at Brasserie Les Halles, Bourdain hit the big time with the 2000 publication of “Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly.” The bestseller was hailed by critics for its witty, energetically written look behind-the-scenes of the restaurant industry. The book expanded on a 1999 New Yorker article.

He parlayed his literary success into a gig with Food Network hosting “A Cook’s Tour.” The show introduced Bourdain’s signature programming approach — it followed the chef with the hangdog look, hint of a hangover, and barely disguised five o’clock shadow to exotic ports of call as he sampled local cuisine and introduced viewers to foreign cultures.

It was a concept that Bourdain would revisit to great success on the Travel Channel’s “No Reservations” and “The Layover.” Those programs aired from 2005 to 2013. Bourdain left Travel Channel for CNN, becoming a fixture of the cable news channel’s lineup with “Parts Unknown.” The travel and food series tagged along with Bourdain as he ate grilled pork and noodles with President Barack Obama in Hanoi, examined the legacy of apartheid in Johannesburg, dug into pig ear sandwiches in the Mississippi Delta, and experienced the harvest festival, Gawai Dayak, in Borneo. It was in Borneo that Bourdain was asked and complied with a request from villagers to plunge a spear into the heart of a pig.

In 2013, Peabody Award judges honored Bourdain and “Parts Unknown” for “expanding our palates and horizons in equal measure.”

Often outspoken, with a sharp-elbowed point of view, Bourdain was a critic of sexual harassment in the restaurant industry. He was unafraid to call out chefs he didn’t care for, such as Paula Deen and Guy Fieri, but also effusive in his praise for those he felt were magicians in the kitchen, promoting the likes of José Andrés and Thomas Keller.

He expanded that criticism as the Me Too movement began, frequently championing his girlfriend Asia Argento’s accusations of Harvey Weinstein and his support for sexual harassment victims. When Weinstein was arrested, he wrote “When you went on record, Asia Argento, you were sure this day would never come, that you would be crushed, that you were alone. And yet you did it anyway.”

His blunt style applied to his personal foibles and failings. In his writing, in interviews, and on his show, Bourdain spoke openly of his heroin use, financial difficulties as a struggling chef, and relationship heartaches.

Bourdain said he struggled with celebrity and noted there was a downside to the international exposure his show gave dive bars and hole-in-the-wall eateries.

“If I name the place … I’ve changed it,” Bourdain said in a 2017 interview on Fresh Air. “The next time I go back, there’s tourists. There’s people who’ve seen it on the show. And then I might hear from the same person from that neighborhood say, ‘you ruined my favorite bar,’ you know? All the regular customers have run away and it’s filled with, you know, tourists in ugly T-shirts and flip-flops.”

Bourdain was born in New York City, and raised by Pierre Bourdain, a record executive, and Gladys Bourdain, an editor for The New York Times, in Leonia, N.J. He was married and divorced twice; first, to high school sweetheart Nancy Putkoski, to whom he was married from 1985 to 2005, and later to Ottavia Busia from 2007 to 2016. Bourdain and Busia had a daughter, Ariane, who was born in 2007.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

More TV

  • TV News Roundup: Netflix Drops Trailer

    TV News Roundup: Netflix Drops Trailer for Ryan Murphy's 'The Politician' (Watch)

    In today’s TV news roundup, Netflix has drops the first trailer for “The Politician,” and “Killing Eve” adds two to its cast for season 3.  CASTING Harriet Walter and Danny Sapani, both alums of “The Crown,” are set to join the cast of “Killing Eve” for its third season. British writer Suzanne Heathcote, whose past credits include [...]

  • Lady Gaga

    Variety Earns 14 Folio: Eddie & Ozzie Award Nominations

    Variety has received 14 Folio: Eddie & Ozzie award nominations for its coverage of the entertainment industry over the past year. The awards gala, which will take place at The Hilton Midtown in New York City on Oct. 30, celebrates publications that have demonstrated impressive investigative journalism, in addition to thoughtful digital and print design. [...]

  • Disneyland

    Disney Shares Slip Amid Reported Whistleblower Allegations of Inflated Revenue

    Sandra Kuba, a former senior financial analyst for Disney’s revenue operations unit, says she has filed a series of whistleblower tips with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, alleging that the entertainment conglomerate repeatedly and systematically overstated its revenue for years, according to a MarketWatch report, by as much as $6 billion in a single [...]

  • Bob Bakish Joe Ianniello

    ViacomCBS Sets Board Members; Bob Bakish, Joe Ianniello New Deals Disclosed

    ViacomCBS has unveiled the 13 members of its board of directors and details of new employment contracts for president-CEO Bob Bakish and CBS chairman-CEO Joe Ianniello. The disclosure came Monday in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, six days after Viacom and CBS at long last set an all-stock merger agreement valued at [...]

  • Carrie Underwood, left, and Reba McEntire

    CMAs Make Hosting Change: Brad Paisley Exits, Dolly Parton and Reba McEntire Are In

    The CMA Awards have had the most consistent hosting situation of any music awards show in television, but 11 years after installing Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood as the reliable faces of the telecast, even ABC and the Country Music Association have decided it’s time for a switch. Come Nov. 13, Underwood will return for [...]

  • Ava Max iHeartRadio Wango Tango, Portraits,

    Megan Thee Stallion, CNCO, Ava Max to Perform at VMAs Pre-show

    CNCO, Megan Thee Stallion and “Sweet but Psycho” singer Ava Max (pictured) have been added to the performer lineup at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards. The three will take the stage during the VMAs’ red carpet pre-show, hosted by Terrence J and Nessa. Zara Larsson will join the two hosts as a special correspondent. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content