Since the news of Anthony Bourdain’s suicide broke last Friday, fans of the author and TV host have been mourning the loss of an icon who changed the way that so many people understood food and restaurants around the world. Here’s a roundup of news surrounding Bourdain’s death at the age of 61, and the tributes that followed over the weekend.
Bourdain’s Last Days (and the Aftermath)
Anthony Bourdain was staying at Le Chambard, a five-star hotel in the medieval village of Kaysersberg, France, near the German border last week while shooting Parts Unknown with his crew and Le Bernardin chef Eric Ripert. Maxime Voinson, a waiter at the hotel’s restaurant the Winstub, said that Bourdain and Ripert “usually had breakfast and dined together.” But Bourdain skipped dinner on Thursday night and didn’t show up for breakfast the next day. “His friend was waiting at breakfast, and waiting and waiting,” Voinson remarked. According to the staff at the hotel, Ripert tried to call Bourdain’s phone a few times, and then a receptionist went up to his hotel room, where she found him hanging in the bathroom.
Christian de Rocquigny, the local prosecutor heading up the investigation into Bourdain’s death, told the Times, “There is no indication of any involvement by a third person, and we’re ready to give the body to his family.” A funeral date has not been announced yet.
“They won’t be shipping his remains back for a couple of days because of formalities,” Bourdain’s mother, Gladys, told the New York Post over the weekend. The author and TV host’s estranged wife, Ottavia Busia Bourdain, is expected to put the memorial together. “Although they’re separated, she’ll be in charge of whatever happens,” Gladys Bourdain told the Post.
Fans and Friends Around the World Remember Anthony Bourdain
Tributes to the influential food-media star kept pouring in over the weekend. New York Times foodcritic Pete Wells praised Bourdain’s knack for exposing a side of kitchen life that was a blind spot to many diners:
When kitchens were being wrapped in a shimmering gauze of glamour, Mr. Bourdain got busy unwrapping them, revealing the injuries and addictions, low wages and high tempers that took a toll on workers.
Among other things, he was one of the first writers to tell the dining public that many high-profile New York restaurants would cease to function without the work and talents of Mexican employees. It was almost a casual aside, yet it suddenly opened new subjects to the purview of food writing: immigration policy, labor conditions, racism.
In an interview with Slate, food writer Gustavo Arellano addressed Bourdain’s candor:
Bourdain was upfront about everything. On an extremely personal note, for him the one group he championed almost more than others were the Latinos in the food industry. By far the most exploited class, from the fields to the slaughterhouses to the lines to the people who are waiters to the people who wash dishes every night, he spoke again and again about their dignity. And not just their dignity, he also trashed anyone who dared to think that Latinos do not deserve to be given a fair shake in the United States.
And in a Vulture essay titled “Anthony Bourdain Was the Best White Man,” Mallika Rao looked at how the TV host immersed himself in other cultures on screen. Here’s Rao writing about the Rajasthan episode of No Reservations:
The episode starts with a shot of the desert that could have been drawn by a Disney animator working off a text that would make Edward Said wince, but pretty soon you knew this wasn’t that kind of a production, because Bourdain was in the frame, sitting on a camel, a grin on his face and a joke out of his mouth about how he was never going to make it anywhere going this slow. Such breaks from protocol made me feel at ease bringing Bourdain to my home — because that’s inevitably how it felt when I watched him engage with brown folks and Indian accents, that he was my guest, my white friend, boyfriend even, in my ultimate fantasies. Simultaneously, he was me, the American niece who feels at home in India. He engaged without fetishizing, touristed with ease, in the way of a person who’s been toggling between identities so long, the act of meeting a stranger from a strange land is the only familiar feeling.
Meanwhile, San Francisco chef Daniel Patterson looked at what Bourdain’s career meant to the culinary community; Kat Kinsman examined his life and death as it relates to greater mental health issues in the restaurant industry; Atlantic contributor Kanishk Tharoor celebrated the food icon’s “extreme empathy”; and author and TV star Eddie Huang wrote about his friendship with the Parts Unknown host over the years.
Makeshift Memorials and Other Tributes
Since Friday afternoon, fans have been gathering at the site of Bourdain’s last kitchen job, Les Halles in New York City, to leave flowers and messages about the impact of his work. Eater NY notes that the team behind Eleven Madison Park Summer House dropped off a kitchen Sharpie with the message, “Chef, you may need these!” Meanwhile, some restaurants across the country are shamelessly attempting to cash in on the collective grieving over Bourdain’s death by offering themed specials.
On Friday and Sunday evenings, CNN aired an hour-long look back at Bourdain’s life. And last night’s Berlin episode of Parts Unknown featured a special introduction from Anderson Cooper. “If Tony could hear this, he’d probably be embarrassed by the praise,” Cooper remarked. “He was always his own toughest critic. He also preferred to let his work speak for itself, which is why, in the midst of our heartache and sadness, we decided to air his latest episode of Parts Unknown.”
If you or anyone you know is considering suicide or self-harm or is anxious, depressed, upset, or needs to talk, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text the Crisis Text Line at 741-741. For international resources, here is a good place to begin.