Skip to content

Anthony Bourdain: Celebrity Chef, Author and Travel Enthusiast

Full Name Anthony Michael Bourdain
Age 61
Birthday June 25, 1956
Death Date June 8, 2018
Birth Sign Cancer
Born United States
Height 6′ 4′′
Net Worth $1.21M

Anthony Bourdain was a renowned chef, author and TV host famous for exploring global culture through cuisine. With his effortless cool and renegade style, Bourdain brought a rock n‘ roll edge to food media and became a beloved culinary icon. Over his wide-ranging career, he built a tremendous following through his best-selling books, groundbreaking television shows, and refreshing perspectives on cooking.

Early Life

Anthony Michael Bourdain was born on June 25th, 1956 in New York City. His father Pierre worked in the music industry and his mother Gladys was a staff editor at The New York Times for over 20 years. As a child, Bourdain would often spend summers in France with his family, which sparked his initial interest in food. After attending high school, Bourdain pursued creative writing at Vassar College but dropped out after two years. He later enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America, graduating with an Associate‘s degree in 1978.

La Vie En Cuisine: Bourdain‘s Culinary Start

Bourdain‘s first kitchen job was as a dishwasher at a seafood restaurant in Provincetown, Massachusetts. From there, he worked his way up to become an executive chef at numerous top restaurants in New York City throughout the 1980s and 1990s, including the Supper Club, One Fifth Avenue, and Sullivan‘s. His most notable culinary position was as executive chef at Brasserie Les Halles in Manhattan, where he worked for many years. During this period, Bourdain also struggled with drug and alcohol addiction, once notoriously declaring that heroin and cocaine fueled the New York restaurant scene. After years of substance abuse, Bourdain got sober in the late 1980s.

Breakout Success with "Kitchen Confidential"

The seminal event that catapulted Bourdain into mainstream fame was the publication of "Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly” in 2000. This raucous, New York Times bestselling memoir provided a behind-the-scenes look at Bourdain’s coming-of-age in the restaurant world. He candidly shared the chaotic culture, unsavory secrets, and crazy antics he experienced working in professional kitchens. Bourdain‘s sharp wit and frank storytelling resonated widely. "Kitchen Confidential" sold over 1 million copies and established him as a major culinary world iconoclast.

Hit Television Shows

On the heels of his memoir‘s success, Bourdain‘s first foray into television came when he hosted “A Cook’s Tour” on the Food Network in 2002. This initial series featured Bourdain traveling the world trying exotic cuisine. His big break came in 2005 when he began hosting the Travel Channel smash hit “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations” – a hugely successful, Emmy award-winning show that ran for 9 seasons. This series took viewers on Bourdain‘s journeys experiencing local culture and foods everywhere from New Orleans to Tokyo. Bourdain‘s cool factor and adventurous spirit made the show a runaway success.

After No Reservations, Bourdain moved to CNN in 2012 to produce his critically acclaimed series “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown.” This smart Emmy-winning documentary program focused an anthropological lens on the intersection of food, travel, and the human stories we all share. Bourdain fearlessly traveled to politically unstable places and connected with everyday people over meals. His compassion and insight shone through. In total, Bourdain explored over 100 countries across nearly 300 episodes of television – constantly inspiring viewers to get out of their comfort zones.

Bestselling Books

In addition to his groundbreaking television work, Bourdain authored over a dozen bestselling nonfiction books praised for their caustic wit and culinary reflections. These included the candid memoir “Medium Raw” (2010) and "Appetites: A Cookbook" (2016) featuring home-style recipes. Bourdain established himself as one of the most skilled writer-storytellers of his generation when it came to creatively examining food and culture. His final book “Anthony Bourdain Remembered” (2018), co-written with friend Eric Ripert, celebrates Bourdain’s life. Bourdain’s books have sold millions of copies worldwide.

Advocacy and Recognition

Beyond his entertainment career, Bourdain increasingly used his platform in his later years to advocate for marginalized populations and overlooked causes. He promoted cultural sensitivity regarding food traditions. Bourdain also raised awareness of wastefulness in the restaurant industry and the problem of sexual harassment in professional kitchens. For his impact on food media and culture, Bourdain received a prestigious Peabody Award in 2014 among other honors like multiple Emmys and Critics Choice Awards. The Smithsonian even declared Bourdain‘s signature gray zip-up jacket to be an "iconic American artifact” and acquired it after his death.

Shocking Death and Lasting Legacy

The world was shocked when Bourdain suddenly died by suicide at the age of 61 in 2018 while filming an episode of “Parts Unknown” in France. However, his unconventional wisdom and place as a beloved cultural icon live on. Bourdain reshaped food television through his authenticity, rebellious spirit, and skill as a storyteller. He motivated people to travel widely, try new cuisine, and value human connections above all – often promoting marginalized voices. Bourdain‘s respect for people‘s common humanity regardless of race, politics or class continues inspiring fans today. For me, Anthony Bourdain will always epitomize living life to the fullest with an open and curious mind.

Why Bourdain Captivated the World

What made Anthony Bourdain such a universally appealing figure? Here are some of the key reasons the world fell in love with him:

  • Rebellious spirit – Bourdain was the ultimate culinary rebel, dishing on industry secrets and shattering food world pretensions. His punk rock persona was infectious.
  • Adventurousness – Bourdain fearlessly traveled to extreme locations and immersed himself in local culture. His sense of adventure showed the rewards of leaving one‘s comfort zone.
  • Storytelling ability – Bourdain was a masterful storyteller, bringing places and people to life with vivid sensory details. His words evoked emotions and transported audiences.
  • Authenticity – Bourdain was unfailingly real. He openly shared his struggles with addiction and life‘s challenges. His frankness let audiences connect with him as a human, not just a celebrity.
  • Curiosity – Bourdain approached the world with wide-eyed curiosity. Whether it was a Michelin-starred restaurant or street market in Shanghai, he wanted to learn. His childlike wonder inspired.
  • Compassion – Bourdain treated everyone he met with respect. He used food to find common ground and bridge cultural divides worldwide. His empathy moved millions.

By the Numbers: Bourdain‘s Career Highlights

  • 12+ – Number of bestselling books Bourdain authored
  • 13 – Years that "No Reservations" ran on the Travel Channel
  • 8 – Seasons of CNN‘s "Parts Unknown" before Bourdain‘s death
  • 2 – Number of Primetime Emmy Awards won by Bourdain
  • 100+ – Countries Bourdain traveled to and filmed television in
  • 19 – Number of Emmys won by Bourdain‘s shows throughout his career
  • 2000 – Year Bourdain‘s breakout memoir "Kitchen Confidential" was released
  • 1978 – Year Bourdain graduated from the Culinary Institute of America

Notable Quotes from Anthony Bourdain

Here are some thought-provoking quotes exemplifying Bourdain‘s bold outlook on life:

  • "If I‘m an advocate for anything, it‘s to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. Walk in someone else‘s shoes or at least eat their food."
  • “Travel isn‘t always pretty. It isn‘t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that‘s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you.”
  • "Don’t lie about it. You made a mistake. Admit it and move on. Just don’t do it again. Ever."
  • "Skills can be taught. Character you either have or you don’t have."
  • “I‘m not afraid to look like a big, hairy, smelly, foreign devil in Tokyo, though I do my best not to, I really do.”

Fun Facts About Anthony Bourdain

Over decades following his work, here are some intriguing details I‘ve learned about Tony:

  • Bourdain‘s original career goal was to become a novelist and short story writer before discovering culinary arts.
  • He was an avid practitioner of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, earning a blue belt after training for years.
  • Bourdain voiced Chef in the popular Pixar animated film "Ratatouille” – one of his proudest career moments.
  • At 6 foot 4 inches tall, Bourdain had a commanding presence wherever he traveled.
  • Bourdain was also passionate about music, particularly punk rock bands from his youth like The Ramones.
  • In the final years of his life, Bourdain became an outspoken advocate against sexual harassment in the restaurant industry.
  • He actively supported and highlighted immigrant chefs and marginalized populations on his shows.
  • Bourdain reportedly consumed cigarettes, coffee, and alcohol daily – the "dark triad" that fueled his restless spirit.
  • If alive today, Bourdain would have turned 67 years old in 2023. He lived life to the fullest in his 61 years.

The Enduring Legacy of Anthony Bourdain

Though his story ended sadly, Anthony Bourdain leaves an immense cultural legacy:

  • Inspired people to travel widely – Bourdain motivated millions to leave their comfort zones, see the world, and try foods they never imagined. His fearless curiosity was contagious.
  • Redefined food television – Bourdain‘s smart but unpolished style changed culinary shows, paving the way for more authentic voices.
  • Championed unheard stories – Bourdain profiled everyday people and places overlooked by society, giving them a voice.
  • Promoted cross-cultural understanding – He used food to find common ground, bridge divides, and foster empathy all over the globe.
  • Shared his humanity – Bourdain openly discussed his setbacks and addictions. His frankness about struggling let audiences connect with him as a person.
  • Built connections – Through meals, Bourdain created bonds between people of vastly different backgrounds. His compassion inspired unity.
  • Left enduring memories – Bourdain‘s beautiful writings and shows captured indelible food encounters that revealed the breadth of human experience.

For me, Anthony Bourdain was more than a celebrity chef – he embodied all it means to live life completely. He will always be among the most influential cross-cultural connectors and travel storytellers our world has seen. Bourdain‘s unconventional wisdom endures.