Renowned celebrity chef and Emmy-winning TV host of CNN’s travel and food show – Parts Unknown – was found dead in his hotel room in France on Friday (June 8) morning. The sad news was confirmed by the cable TV network in a statement. The 61-year-old chef, who authored many travel and cook books, was in the French city of Strasbourg, working on a few new episodes for his hit series.
CNN confirmed Bourdain’s death and said the “cause of death was suicide.” His close friend Eric Ripert, the French chef, found Bourdain unresponsive in his hotel room on Friday morning, the report added.
Born in 1956, Bourdain attended Vassar College and graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in 1978. He soon began running the kitchen at big New York restaurants such as Supper Club, One Fifth Avenue, and Sullivan’s. By 1998, Bourdain became the executive chef at Brasserie Les Halles, one of the most reputed restaurants in the world.
An avid traveller, who seemed to be in a quest for hidden treasures when it came to food and tradition, Bourdain always campaigned for “go and eat local”. He was also known for his daring streak as he loved trying out bizarre and unusual meals from around the world that included fermented shark, entire cobra and ant eggs.
He also advocated for marginalised population and became a strong voice for safer working conditions in restaurants. Later, he also fought against sexual harassment in restaurants for his staff. Most recently in 2017, he spoke up against sexual harassment at workplace after the Harvey Weinstein scandal.
Before making it big into the television world, he took America by storm with his explosive article in New York Times — titled, “Don’t Eat Before Reading This,” in 1999 — which exposed the dark secrets of NYC restaurants. After garnering much attention and popularity, an extended form of that article became a best-selling book in 2000 called Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly.
The book’s success paved the path for his long, stellar television career and there was hardly an award that the chef hadn’t been nominated and won. That’s not all. He was also known for his stringent remarks against the hullabaloo around the celebrity chef industry and how stardom compromised the craft.
Since 2002, Bourdain began his TV journey with hit shows like A Cook’s Tour (2002–2003), No Reservations (2005–2012), The Layover (2011–2013) and Parts Unknown (2013–2018). Each year from 2013 to 2016, Bourdain won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Informational Series for Special for Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown.
In 2013, he won the prestigious Peabody Award for Parts Unknown and during the honours, the judges lauded him for “expanding our palates and horizons in equal measure.” In 2010, he also won an Honorary CLIO Award, which is given to individuals who change the world by encouraging people to think differently.
Bourdain also made headlines in 2016, when he managed to get former US President Barack Obama to dine out at a small eatery in Vietnam. During the visit to Bún chả Hương Liên, a restaurant which is known for its reasonably priced food, Obama and Bourdain ate grilled pork and noodles together and the meal just cost them $6 (approximately Rs 405).