Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Famed Chef, TV Host Anthony Bourdain Dies at 61

His 2000 book "Kitchen Confidential," an unvarnished look behind the scenes of the New York restaurant world, brought him international fame, which turned into a long TV career

What to Know

  • "Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown" won four consecutive Primetime Emmys for outstanding informational series or special
  • "His talents never ceased to amaze us and we will miss him very much," CNN said in a statement
  • In 2016, he and then-President Barack Obama sat down for a dinner of "cheap but delicious noodles" in a Vietnamese hole-in-the-wall

Celebrity chef and world-traveling CNN host Anthony Bourdain is dead at 61, the network said Friday. CNN said the cause of death was suicide.

His friend, New York chef Eric Ripert, found Bourdain unresponsive in a hotel room near Strasbourg, France, where he was filming his show "Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown," according to CNN. French police confirmed to NBC News that Bourdain was found dead in a hotel room in Kaysersberg by apparent suicide.

He was remembered as a great storyteller who used food to get at the deeper bonds between people across borders. 

"It is with extraordinary sadness we can confirm the death of our friend and colleague, Anthony Bourdain," CNN 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 incredibly difficult time."

CNN will air a tribute to Bourdain Friday at 10 p.m. ET, with a marathon of his favorite episodes of "Parts Unknown" airing Saturday night and the regularly scheduled new episode of the show airing Sunday at 9 p.m. ET with a special introduction from Anderson Cooper. 

Bourdain's 2000 book "Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly," an unvarnished look behind the scenes of the New York restaurant world, brought him international fame, which turned into a long TV career.

Within hours of his death, "Kitchen Confidential" was in the top 20 on

He brought viewers around the world to sample all kinds of cuisines on a series of shows, including the Food Network's "A Cook's Tour," Travel Channel's "Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations" and "Parts Unknown," which won four consecutive Primetime Emmys for outstanding informational series or special. That show also won a Peabody Award in 2013.

"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, we tend to get some really astonishing answers," Bourdain said when accepting the Peabody.

In 2016, he and then-President Barack Obama sat down for a dinner of "cheap but delicious noodles" in a Vietnamese hole-in-the-wall restaurant.

"He taught us about food — but more importantly, about its ability to bring us together. To make us a little less afraid of the unknown," Obama wrote on Twitter after Bourdain's death. "We’ll miss him.

Bourdain had written extensively about his life and detailed his early years of drug use, which he said had led to his dropping out of Vassar College after two years. He wrote about having depression in both his 2010 memoir, "Medium Raw," and "Kitchen Confidential."

In the latter, he detailed a time of unemployment that left him "utterly depressed" and "immobilized by guilt, fear, shame and regret."

Bourdain had told The Associated Press in 2008 that the birth of his daughter Ariane, now 11, had made him determined not to do anything "stupidly self-destructive" if he could "avoid it."

CNN Chief Jeff Zucker told the network's staff in a memo Friday that, "while the circumstances of his death are still not completely clear, we do know that Tony took his own life."

Ripert, the famous chef behind Le Bernardin who appeared on several episodes of his friend's shows, released a statement Friday wishing an "exceptional human being" peace.

"Anthony was a dear friend. He was an exceptional human being, so inspiring and generous. One of the great storytellers of our time who connected with so many," Ripert said. "I wish him peace. My love and prayers are with his family, friends and loved ones."

News of his death brought an outpouring of grief from other chefs and celebrities. President Donald Trump offered his condolences to Bourdain's family, saying at the White House Friday, "I enjoyed his show, he was quite a character."

Bourdain was born in New York City and was raised in Leonia, New Jersey. He had written that his love of food began as a youth while on a family vacation in France, when he ate his first oyster.

Working in restaurants led him to the Culinary Institute of America, where he graduated in 1978, and began working in kitchens in New York City. He became executive chef at Brasserie Les Halles in 1998.

In the preface to the latest edition "Kitchen Confidential," Bourdain wrote of his shock at the success of his book, which he wrote by getting up at 5 a.m. to steal a couple of hours at the computer before appearing at the saute station for lunch.

CNN is currently airing the 11th season of "Parts Unknown," and Bourdain was in France shooting an episode for the 12th season. CNN said it has not made a decision yet on whether it will proceed with the current season. 

And HarperCollins Publishing announced Friday that Bourdain's imprint with the company, Anthony Bourdain Books, will be discontinued after the remaining works under contract come out. 

The imprint had released works by Daniel Vaughan and Marilyn Hagerty and is scheduled to released "We Fed An Island" by Jose Andres, the chef widely praised for his efforts to feed Puerto Ricans after Hurricane Maria.

Bourdain was twice divorced and has a daughter from his second marriage. Funeral arrangements were not immediately available.

Bourdain said in January that the #MeToo movement left him "reexamining my life," wondering what unacceptable behavior he let slide when he worked in the kitchen, Bravo reported

He spoke out in support of his girlfriend, actress Asia Argento, one of the most vocal accusers of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. (Weinstein has denied engaging in non-consensual sex.) 

"All the ugly stories about Weinstein were ignored ,suppressed until a few, heroic women came forward and went on record. They were vilified," Bourdain tweeted in October.

Argento posted a statement on social media Friday, calling Bourdain her "rock" and "protector."

"Anthony gave all of himself in everything that he did," she wrote. "His brilliant, fearless spirit touched and inspired so many, and his generosity knew no bounds. He was my love, my rock, my protector. I am beyond devastated. My thoughts are with his family. I would ask that you respect their privacy and mine."

Last week, Bourdain told the news outlet Indiewire that he and Argento had become even closer after she stepped in at the last minute to direct an episode of "Parts Unknown," saying, "My God, I’d love nothing more than to repeat the experience. She made it incredible."

His death comes the same week as another prominent New Yorker's suicide, designer Kate Spade. She was 55.

Suicide is among the leading causes of death in the United States, with rates up 30 percent since 1999, NBC News reported. Nearly 45,000 people died by suicide in 2016, the most recent year for which data were available.

The increase affected both men and women and all racial and ethnic groups, with adults aged 45 to 64 having the largest rate increase and greatest numbers of suicides in the period, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said this week.

Half of people who died by suicide had a known mental health condition, the CDC said. Relationship problems, substance abuse issues and job or financial troubles also contributed to the trends.

SUICIDE PREVENTION HELP: Here is information on suicide prevention from the National Institute of Mental Health. If you are in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or reach out to the Crisis Text Line by texting ‘Home’ to 741741.

NBC editor Liz Lane and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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