Anthony Bourdain, the gifted chef, storyteller and writer who took TV viewers around the world to explore culture, cuisine and the human condition for nearly two decades, has died. He was 61.
CNN confirmed Bourdain’s death on Friday and said the cause of death was suicide.
Bourdain was in France working on an upcoming episode of his award-winning CNN series, “Parts Unknown.” His close friend Eric Ripert, the French chef, found Bourdain unresponsive in his hotel room Friday morning.
“It is with extraordinary sadness we can confirm the death of our friend and colleague, Anthony Bourdain,” the network said in a statement 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 iincredibly difficult time.”
Bourdain joined CNN five years ago. In an email to employees, the network’s president, Jeff Zucker, remembered him as an “exceptional talent.”
“Tony will be greatly missed not only for his work but also for the passion with which he did it,” Zucker wrote.
Viewers around the world felt connected to Bourdain through his fearless travels, his restless spirit and his magical way with words. Fans, fellow chefs, celebrities and friends reacted to his death with stunned sorrow.
After spending two years at New York’s Vassar College, he dropped out and enrolled in culinary school. He spent years as a line cook and sous chef at restaurants in the Northeast before becoming executive chef at Manhattan’s Brasseries Les Halles.
But it was his writing that put him on the map in his early 40s.
Bourdain drew widespread public attention with his 1999 New Yorker article, “Don’t Eat Before Reading This,” about the secrets of kitchen life and shady characters he encountered along the way.
“In America, the professional kitchen is the last refuge of the misfit. It’s a place for people with bad pasts to find a new family,” he wrote.
The article morphed into a best-selling book in 2000, “Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly,” which was translated into more than two dozen languages.
“When the book came out, it very quickly transformed my life — I mean, changed everything,” he told NPR.
Bourdain found himself on a path to international stardom. First, he hosted “A Cook’s Tour” on the Food Network, then moved to the Travel Channel with “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations,” a breakout hit that earned two Emmy Awards and more than a dozen nominations.
In 2013, both Bourdain and CNN took a risk by bringing him to a network still best known for breaking news and headlines. Bourdain quickly became one of its principal faces and a linchpin of its prime-time schedule.
Season 11 of “Parts Unknown” premiered last month on CNN, with destinations including Uruguay, Armenia and West Virginia.
In his final weeks, Bourdain said he was especially looking forward to an episode about Hong Kong, which aired Sunday.
He called it a “dream show” in which he linked up with longtime Hong Kong resident and cinematographer Christopher Doyle.
“The idea was just to interview him and maybe get him to hold a camera. He ended up being director of photography for the entire episode,” Bourdain told CNN in April. “For me it was like asking Joe DiMaggio to, you know, sign my baseball and instead he joined my Little League team for the whole season.”
The show’s website on Friday posted an homage to Bourdain featuring one of his many oft-repeated quotations — one that seemed to embody his philosophy: “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.”
How to get help: In the US, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The International Association for Suicide Prevention and Befrienders Worldwide also can provide contact information for crisis centers around the world.