Renowned chef, Emmy-winning host and ‘unique storyteller’ Anthony Bourdain dies at 61

CNN has reported his death as a suicide as network anchors struggled to hold back tears after learning of the news

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 June, 2018, 7:35pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 June, 2018, 6:11pm

Renowned US chef Anthony Bourdain, author and host of CNN food and travel series Parts Unknown, hanged himself in a French hotel, the network said on Friday. He was 61.

Bourdain was found dead in a hotel room in Strasbourg, where he had been working on an upcoming episode of his programme, CNN said in a statement.

“It is with extraordinary sadness we can confirm the death of our friend and colleague, Anthony Bourdain,” the network said.

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“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.”

French prosecutors confirmed Bourdain was found dead in the Alsace region of eastern France, which borders Germany and Switzerland.

“We learned of the death by hanging of the American chef this morning in the Chambard luxury hotel in Kaysersberg,” said Christian de Rocquigny du Fayel. “At this stage, we have no reason to suspect foul play.”

Bourdain was a frequent visitor to Hong Kong, and was in the city recently to film an episode for his series with his partner – the actress and director Asia Argento – and celebrated cinematographer Christopher Doyle, who memorialised the chef in two posts on his Instagram account.

In the first, Doyle wrote: “We were so moved to watch [the episode we made] the other day. Beauty is what happens when people who care about each other make things together.

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Quoting a line Bourdain said in the show, he continued: “‘To fall in love with Asia’ was a journey we were honoured to have shared with you. We will continue with her. Love, Jenny & Chris.”

In the second, Doyle posted a photograph of himself, Bourdain, Argento, and others.

To @anthonybourdain and @asiaargento with all our love @xiaohaixiao

A post shared by Christopher Doyle杜可風 (@dukefeng52) on Jun 8, 2018 at 8:45am PDT

In a statement, Agento asked for privacy, and called him her “rock” and “protector”.

“Anthony gave all of himself in everything that he did. His brilliant, fearless spirit touched and inspired so many, and his generosity knew no bounds,” she wrote.

“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.”

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A gifted storyteller, Bourdain explored haute cuisine and street food alike in his travels, passionately encouraging viewers to “eat and drink with people without fear and prejudice”, the network said.

He often drank on the show and was public about his struggle with own demons, including drug abuse.

Everywhere in the world we go and ask these simple questions. We tend to get really astonishing answers
Anthony Bourdain

“We ask very simple questions: What makes you happy? What do you eat? What do you like to cook?” Bourdain said in an acceptance speech for a Peabody Award in 2014.

“And everywhere in the world we go and ask these simple questions. We tend to get really astonishing answers.”

On CNN, anchors struggled to hold back tears as they recalled their late colleague in heartfelt recollections and urged people faced with despair or who know people who are struggling with depression to call a suicide hotline.

“It can’t be overemphasised. He has a level of authenticity you don’t commonly get with people on TV,” astrophysicist and author Neil deGrasse Tyson said.

“Outside they’re whatever else. He was authentic. You knew that.”

CNN anchor John Berman remembered his late colleague as a “human contradiction.”

“He loved food. He wrote about food. He lived food. He thought we obsessed about food too much,” Bermand said.

“He once said to me, ‘I wish people would stop taking pictures of food and have more sex.’ You know, because what he really wanted to do was to show people life.”

Bourdain leaves behind a teenage daughter Ariane, from his relationship with his ex-wife Ottavia Busia.

After a start washing dishes in a restaurant, Bourdain gradually rose through the ranks to become a chef. His profile began to soar in 1999, when The New Yorker magazine published his article “Don’t Eat Before Reading This”, which he developed into the 2000 book, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly.

He went on to host television programmes, first on the Food Network and the Travel Channel, before joining CNN in 2013.

“Tony was an exceptional talent,” CNN President Jeff Zucker said in an email to employees, according to the network. “Tony will be greatly missed not only for his work but also for the passion with which he did it.”

His death comes three days after American designer Kate Spade, who built a fashion empire on her signature handbags, was found dead in her New York flat of suicide on Tuesday.

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Suicide rates rose in nearly every US state from 1999 to 2016, according to data from the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday. Nearly 45,000 people committed suicide in 2016, making it one of three leading causes of death in the United States, along with Alzheimer’s disease and drug overdoses.

Agence France-Presse and Reuters