For a generation of chefs and food enthusiasts, Anthony Bourdain’s book was a passport to the seamy, sexy world of restaurant kitchens.
The celebrated TVculinary and travel journalist died from an apparent suicide in his hotel room in France, where he was working on a TV show about culinary traditions, according to CNN. He was found by his longtime friend, chef Eric Ripert.
It was a tragic loss for the food world.
It’s impossible to overstate Bourdain’s impact on how we eat. His CNN show “Parts Unknown” was a remarkable trip around the globe, from eating messy grilled chicken parts at a Bangkok street market to interviewing Russian dissidents in Moscow and slurping noodles with former president Barack Obama in Hanoi. Yet for many, his power came from his life spent as a hard partying chef in New York in the 1980s, where he detailed the sex and drugs lifestyle going on behind the kitchen door. Some people can still remember catching a glimpse of the skinny chef, working the line at Les Halles Brasserie in the 1990s. Pronouncements like “bacteria love hollandaise” influenced brunch-goers for decades; likewise the revelation that he never ordered fish on Mondays unless at a four-star restaurant.
Chefs and friends paid tribute to him on Friday.
“Tony has been my friend for about 14 years. The personal shock of this is just too immense to comprehend. Here’s a man who professionally I believe was the greatest interpreter of culture from music to social justice to movies to of course food. My days and nights that I would get to spend with him were filled with the greatest conversations you can imagine. My heart is breaking for his daughter and his family. The pain that he must have been in is just crushing me right now. We have lost one of the greats. I’m sad for my friend. But it’s a brutal reminder of fragility of our humanity.”
“I loved the guy. I really got to know him when I was opening Coco Pazza Teatro around '93. Anthony was already working at Le Madri. One day he called me, he said 'I’d like to be Executive Chef at Teatro.' I said, 'Let's meet.' He came and we smoked Marlboro Reds. It was one thing we had in common. I told him to bring me something he's passionate about. [He later] came to see me, he opened up a container, and it was a beautiful brandade. Somehow he knew that I loved brandade. He used to make a killer one. For a while we picked at the brandade and smoked our cigarettes, and that's when I got to know him—how bright he was. Not just about food. So I gave him the Teatro job. But slowly I came to realize that although he was talented, the pressure of the kitchen was bothering him. While Anthony likes to be among the people, he was not the leader. One night I walked into Teatro and the dining room was full, but there was no food on any of the tables. I went into kitchen, and Anthony said, 'I can’t be here, salad this, salad that.' I said, 'I’ll expedite, you get behind the line.' We managed to serve dinner. After that, we took a walk and smoked on 46th Street. He said, 'I’m leaving, I’m going to take a break, maybe I’m going to cook some French.' And then, all of a sudden he wrote a book [, in which Luongo is famously portrayed as the ‘Dark Prince of Italian Fine Dining’]. The last time I saw him, a couple months ago, he talked about how happy he was to be a Dad.
We need more people like Anthony Bourdain in this world.” -
“He was always so entrenched in the New York chef world. His voice was a cook’s voice, a chef’s voice, was exactly right. At South Beach [Food & Wine Festival] a few years ago, he had this crazy idea to reproduce high end ocean liner cruise from the ’30s. It was the only black tie event ever at the festival. It was only for about 40 people, a couple grand a ticket, with a whole menu of very classic dishes. Only he could have made that happen. He spent the night talking about dealing with the C.I.A. to get a visa to go to Myanmar for Parts Unknown.”
“Another incredible loss to suicide. Heart broken, sad, in disbelief.” chef Rene Redzepi, via Twitter
“A powerful voice in our industry is lost. When we think of influential writers we become attached to them, how they think, how they feel, and I feel deeply affected by his legacy. He resonated with me. Losing someone who said out loud the things we, as chefs, think on a daily basis; we take for granted how much someone we don't really know can impact us every day. He gave culture to our industry; he brought it to life.”
“Anthony was my best friend. He was an exceptional human being, so inspiring and generous. One of the great storytellers of our time who connected with so many around the world on a level rarely seen. He brought us all on some incredible journeys. I pray he is at peace from the bottom of my heart. My love and prayers are also with his family, friends, loved ones and everyone that knew him.”
“Tony was very supportive of me, since the first time we met on the set of Top Chef 12 years ago. When he paid me a compliment it made a long lasting impact. More well spoken then I could keep up with. Out living life and exploring the world as I wished I could. I will always admire him and be thankful I got to spend a little time with him.”
“Stunned and saddened by the loss of Anthony Bourdain. He brought the world into our homes and inspired so many people to explore cultures and cities through their food. Remember that help is a phone call away.” C
“Anthony Bourdain was the Hemingway of gastronomy.”
“I worked with Anthony on a tv program. he was a warm person, very genuine and very open.”
“His aura was toughness but inside he was a soft person. It’s crazy to have someone like him rooting for you. I got to work with him on The Mission Chinese Food cookbook, and also the show Mind of a Chef, and then on his documentary Wasted. He was such a positive supportive influence. He made you want to be fearless. The funny thing is, when you spent time with him, you weren’t talking about where to find the best khao mun gai [chicken rice]. Or maybe you it would come up, on the way to talking about something else. I think what he would say to us all right now, as we’re grieving. He’d say something funny. And profane. In a really smart way.”
“This is heartbreaking. The industry has lost one of its greatest voices today. Tony will be sorely missed by all of us who knew him and loved him.”
“All I can say is that as someone who was occasionally his editor he was generous, funny profane—and always willing to do whatever to make a story better. And that as half of Ruth Bourdain, when people around us were urging us both to stop it, Tony and I both agreed that it was both funny and flattering.”
“Tony was such a loveable and intense set of contradictions. He was tough, ready to get in a fight for what he believed and had the biggest, softest heart. He had impeccable gut instincts and a towering, almost intimidating intelligence and curiosity. His work manifests those extraordinary qualities and used them to make change, bringing the world to us to understand it better. We all now need to continue what he began, honor his legacy. My heart goes out to his family. RIP Tony.”