In the days before committing suicide, Anthony Bourdain battled stardom and heartache, according to a new book.
Journalist Charles Leerhsen included text conversations exchanged with the late celebrity chef in his final days that shed light on his psyche in an unofficial biography titled Down and Out in Paradise: The Life of Anthony Bourdain.
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“I hate my fans, too. I hate being famous. I hate my job,” according to a New York Times article, Bourdain wrote to his ex-wife Ottavia Busia-Bourdain, who had grown to be one of his close confidantes, “I am lonely and living in constant uncertainty.”
Who was Anthony Bourdain?
Anthony Michael Bourdain was an American celebrity chef who also wrote books and produced travel documentaries. He appeared on shows that explored different cultures via food and the human condition.
After graduating from The Culinary Institute of America in 1978, Bourdain worked in numerous commercial kitchens throughout his career, including several years as the executive chef at Brasserie Les Halles in Manhattan. His best-selling book Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly (2000) is where he initially gained fame.
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A Cook’s Tour, Bourdain’s first culinary and travel television programme, aired on the Food Network in 2002 and 2003 for 35 episodes. He started presenting the culinary and cultural adventure shows Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations (2005–2012) and The Layover (2011-2013) for the Travel Channel.
After starting a three-season stint as a judge on The Taste in 2013, he moved his travel show, Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, to CNN. Bourdain wrote both fiction and historical nonfiction in addition to his culinary writings, television appearances, and numerous books on food, cooking, and travel experiences. Bourdain committed suicide on June 8, 2018, while filming for Parts Unknown in France.
On June 25, 1956, Anthony Michael Bourdain was born in Manhattan to Gladys and Pierre Bourdain. A few years later, his younger brother Christopher was born. Anthony grew up sharing a home with both of his parents, and one of his novels included a description of his youth: “I did not want for love or attention. My parents loved me. Neither of them drank to excess. Nobody beat me. God was never mentioned so I was annoyed by neither church nor any notion of sin or damnation.”
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His mother was Jewish, and his father was a Catholic. In spite of being a Jew according to halacha, according to Bourdain, “I’ve never been in a synagogue. I don’t believe in a higher power. But that doesn’t make me any less Jewish I don’t think.” He was not religious, nor was his family. Pierre was a floor manager at a record store and a salesman at a photography store in New York City when Bourdain was born. Gladys worked as a staff editor for The New York Times, while Pierre eventually rose to the position of executive for Columbia Records.
Early in June 2018, Bourdain and his friend and longtime colleague Éric Ripert were filming an episode of Parts Unknown in Strasbourg. Ripert got concerned on June 8 after learning that Bourdain had skipped breakfast and dinner. Later, at the Le Chambard hotel in Kaysersberg, close to Colmar, he discovered Bourdain dead from what appeared to be a suicide by hanging in his room.
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The public prosecutor for Colmar, Christian de Rocquigny du Fayel, stated that Bourdain’s body showed no evidence of violence and that the suicide appeared to be an impulsive act. According to Rocquigny du Fayel, Bourdain’s toxicology tests came back negative for narcotics and with only a trace of a prescription non-narcotic drug. On June 13, 2018, Bourdain’s body was cremated in France, and two days later his ashes were sent back to the United States.