Celebrity Chief Anthony Bourdain Found Dead of Apparent Suicide

Celebrity Chief Anthony Bourdain Found Dead of Apparent Suicide

Andrew F. Johnston

Anthony Bourdain, the frenetic celebrity chef and television host who took viewers on a culinary journey through more than 80 countries and spoke candidly about his past struggles as a drug addict, has died, CNN said Friday. He was 61.

The network said suicide was the cause of death.

“His love of great adventure, new friends, fine food and drink and the remarkable stories of the world made him a unique storyteller,” the network said in a statement. “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.”

Bourdain had been in Strasbourg, France, working on an episode of his Emmy Award-winning CNN series, “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown.” The network said his body was found in his hotel room by French chef and close friend Eric Ripert.

Through his shows, which also included the Travel Channel’s “No Reservations,” Bourdain globe-trotted to scores of countries, telling irreverent stories that wove local tastes and flavors while showing reverence to history and people and showcasing his own unflappable charm.

He was unafraid to eat foods that would make most others wince — including raw seal eyeball from Canada, roasted sheep’s testicles from Morocco and cobra heart from Vietnam.

“Your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park. Enjoy the ride,” he wrote in his breakout 2000 book, “Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly.”

As a writer, he favored the works of George Orwell, William S. Burroughs and Joan Didion.

Bourdain, who was born in New York and grew up in the suburbs of New Jersey, graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in 1978. After working in several kitchens, he gained recognition for “Kitchen Confidential,” which described in vivid detail the dark and drug-fueled world that dwelled within the industry and among those working in the trenches.

His best-selling book grew out of a New Yorker article, “Don’t Eat Before Reading This,” in which Bourdain spilled his own trade secrets after working his way up from humble dishwasher to celebrated chef in New York.

Bourdain was open about his past as a former heroin addict, and he seemed to revel in his reputation that stripped away a more wholesome image of master chefs in pristine white. The Smithsonian called him “the original rock star, the Elvis of bad boy chefs.”

In various interviews, Bourdain spoke about how he was given several chances in life while addicted to drugs in the 1980s and lost friends to overdoses and drug abuse.

He began to turn his life around when he realized his talents were in the kitchen, although he said he spent years worrying about being in debt and having no health insurance. He also drank, something he still enjoyed and acknowledged as he traveled and partied in exotic destinations for his TV shows.

Bourdain’s death follows that of another celebrity, fashion designer Kate Spade, who was found dead of suicide this week at age 55. They both hanged themselves.

Federal health officials reported Thursday that suicide rates are up by 30 percent across the nation since 1999, and only about half the people who died by suicide had a known mental health conditions.