Anthony Bourdain, a talented chef whose gift for storytelling informed both his writing and his work as a world-traveling television host for nearly two decades, has died at age 61.
The cause of the Parts Unknown star’s death was suicide, according to a Friday statement from CNN. Bourdain had been filming an episode of his food and travel series for CNN in France, and was found unresponsive in his hotel room on Friday morning, June 8.
“It is with extraordinary sadness we can confirm the death of our friend and colleague, Anthony Bourdain,” said CNN in its report on Bourdain’s death. “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.”
Widely regarded as one of the most influential chefs in the world, Bourdain rose to fame in 2000 with his novel Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly. The novel was inspired a 1999 article he penned for The New Yorker, Don’t Eat Before Reading This, which offered a behind-the-scenes look at the culinary world based on his years of experience as a professional chef.
A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Bourdain worked as a chef at a long list of restaurants, including a period in which he served as executive chef of Manhattan’s popular Brasserie Les Halles.
Bourdain transitioned from chef to author to television host after the success of Kitchen Confidential, beginning with a two-season run on Food Network’s A Cook’s Tour, then moving to the Travel Channel for Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations in 2005 and later, the similarly themed series The Layover.
Over the course of nine seasons, No Reservations took audiences to a long list of locales both within the United States and abroad, offering an introduction to the local cuisine and culture through Bourdain’s experiences and a mix of colorful and thoughtful narration. The series received two Emmy Awards and a Critics’ Choice Award, and was nominated multiple times for these and other awards in various categories.
In 2007, a special episode of No Reservations focusing on Beirut and Bourdain’s experiences filming there during the Israel-Lebanon conflict in 2006 was nominated for an Emmy Award.
Bourdain moved from the Travel Channel to CNN in 2013 for Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, which followed a similar format to No Reservations but focused on lesser-known areas of the world and took a deeper dive into the cultures and history of the region. Parts Unknown went on to win five Emmy Awards and a long list of nominations for Emmy Awards and other accolades. The first season of the series earned Bourdain a Peabody Award, essentially the equivalent of a Pulitzer Prize for storytelling in broadcast media. Parts Unknown premiered its 11th season in May.
In his acceptance speech for the Peabody Award, Bourdain explained his approach to Parts Unknown and his other successful food-and-travel shows over the years.
“We ask very simple questions: What makes you happy? What do you eat? What do you like to cook? And everywhere in the world we go and ask these very simple questions,” he explained. “We tend to get some really astonishing answers.”
Bourdain was an outspoken advocate for the underappreciated cooks and chefs operating behind the scenes in many U.S. restaurants, and a champion of “street foods” prepared in many countries around the world. Along with his more famous work on television and novels, Bourdain also authored several fiction projects and nonfiction historical novels, as well as the 2012 graphic novel Get Jiro! published by DC Comics.
Bourdain is survived by his daughter, Ariane, from his marriage to Ottavia Busia. The couple divorced in 2016.
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