15 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Anthony Bourdain
Legendary chef and TV host Anthony Bourdain died on June 8 at 61. Over the course of his exciting career, he became a beloved figure not only for his food, but his love of travel and exploring new cultures across the world. However, Bourdain’s fascinating life extended even beyond what most of us saw on the screen.
Read on for the most interesting tidbits we could find, including details on his tattoos (page 4), airplane food (page 9) and vegetarians (page 14).
1. His best-selling book inspired a TV show
Bourdain’s best-selling book Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, originally came out of an article he wrote for the New Yorker in 1999, “Don’t Eat Before Reading This.” The book also inspired a TV show of its own. Titled Kitchen Confidential, the series ran from 2005-2006 and starred Bradley Cooper as “Jack Bourdain.”
While the show followed on a bad-boy chef inspired by the real Bourdain, the book provides a great resource. It includes an insider look into the restaurant world, as well as tips on what equipment regular people should have in their kitchens.
Next: The also chef got his start in a surprising locale.
2. His first cooking job was on Cape Cod
Delish reports that the New York City-born chef spent many summers with his family in France while growing up. There, his first oyster piqued his interest in food. He also spent summer vacations working in kitchens at various seafood restaurants in Provincetown, Massachusetts. That, in turn, later led to his career as a chef.
Next: Bourdain didn’t just serve as the star of his shows.
3. He produced TV shows, too
Bourdain began hosting Parts Unknown in 2013, after leaving Travel Channel. However, he didn’t just show up in front of the camera. He also served as an active producer who wrote his own voiceovers and helped choose each episode’s music. In addition, he assisted in producing a number of films, including documentaries Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent and Wasted!
Next: Food did not represent his only hobby, either.
4. Bourdain loved tattoos and had a bunch
The chef earned his bad-boy image not only for how he lived his life, but his famous ink. USA Today reported that in 2008, he even appeared on TLC’s Miami Ink to get inked by artist Chris Garver. During that session, he got a skull on his right shoulder. Bourdain also received tattoos during his travels, even on his shows. Talk about a lasting souvenir!
Next: When traveling, he sometimes got into sticky situations.
5. His crew once got stuck in a political conflict
While Bourdain and his crew filmed No Reservations in 2006, the Israel-Lebanon conflict broke out. As a result, the episode focused on behind-the-scenes shots of them waiting for news in their hotel, firsthand encounters with supporters of Hezbollah, an Islamist political party, and other edgy topics. In 2007, the episode got nominated for an Emmy Award for outstanding informational programming.
Next: The chef also believed we can all cook, if we try.
6. Everyone can cook these things, he said
“In an ideal society, everyone over 12 should be able to cook a few basic things reasonably well,” Bourdain once told Men’s Journal. He believed that everyone should have the ability to make an omelet, roast a chicken, and grill a steak. The chef also thought people should learn recipes to make basic soup, stews, vegetables, and pasta.
Next: He also got involved in the Me Too movement.
7. Bourdain’s girlfriend accused Harvey Weinstein of rape
Bourdain became a vocal advocate for the Me Too movement, after his girlfriend Asia Argento accused Harvey Weinstein of rape. “I stand unhesitatingly and unwaveringly with the women,” Bourdain wrote in December 2017. “Not out of virtue, or integrity, or high moral outrage — as much as I’d like to say so — but because late in life, I met one extraordinary woman with a particularly awful story to tell, who introduced me to other extraordinary women with equally awful stories.”
The chef jokingly acknowledged the news of Weinstein turning himself into police with his typical wry humor. At the time, he tweeted an image of a prison menu with the caption, “What’s on the menu for Weinstein?”
Next: The chef also had other impressive talents.
8. He originally wanted to draw comic books
During his childhood, Bourdain wanted to be a comic book artist before his attention shifted to food. While serving on a New York Comic Con panel, Bourdain called comics his “first love.” He made good on his fandom, eventually co-writing two graphic novels, the dystopian 2012’s Get Jiro! and 2015’s Get Jiro: Blood and Sushi; and one 2018 anthology horror series, Hungry Ghosts.
Next: The following food just didn’t appeal to the traveler and chef.
9. Airplane food and Bourdain don’t mix
“You’ll never feel better after airplane food than before it,” Bourdain told Esquire. Instead of eating the airplane fare, Bourdain recommended getting food before boarding. “If there’s food available, I’ll load up on whatever the local specialty is. In Tokyo I’ll get ramen, in Singapore I’ll get something from the airport’s hawker center. Shake Shack at John F. Kennedy airport is the best.”
Next: He also didn’t keep his dark past a secret.
10. He remained candid about his drug use
Bourdain got candid about his former drug use in Kitchen Confidential, writing that he had previously used cocaine, heroin, and LSD. He also said he felt lucky to have kicked the drugs. “I understood that I got a pretty lucky break here, and that it was statistically unlikely to happen again,” he told Men’s Journal. “I’ve been pretty careful about not f***ing up the opportunities that have come since.”
Of his former addiction, he also wrote on Reddit that he continued to drink and smoke cigarettes. “Most people who kick heroin and cocaine have to give up on everything,” he explained. “Maybe ‘cause my experiences were so awful in the end, I’ve never been tempted to relapse.”
Next: Despite a friendship with the following person, he hated his music.
11. Certain music never played in his kitchens
When Bourdain ran restaurants, he made it clear that playing certain music could result in firing. Those included Billy Joel, Elton John, and The Grateful Dead, according to The Daily Meal. In Hamptons Magazine, Bourdain later said that he and Joel “have this sort of strange and tortured relationship. We’re actually pretty friendly, we’ve had dinner a couple of times, and Billy knows full well I hate his music.”
Next: When he had a child, his lifestyle changed a bit.
12. His kid calmed him down — a little
Bourdain and Ottavia Busia had a child — his first and only — in 2007. After the birth of Ariane, now 11, Bourdain decided to tone it down a little. In other words, no more cliff jumping. He told People, “In retrospect, I don’t know that I would do that today — now that I’m a dad or reasonably happy.” The chef also quit smoking after he had a kid, and said he cut down on his alcohol consumption.
Next: The chef also stayed in shape with the following workout.
13. He practiced jiu-jitsu
Bourdain and his former Ottavia wife both practiced Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, The Daily Meal reported. When Bourdain went on the road, he always tried to find a local instructor to get his workout in. Ottavia even competed in the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation Open, a competition. It just goes to show, even a professional traveler found time to stay in shape on the road.
Next: He also didn’t like the following diet.
14. The traveler considered vegetarianism a first-world thing
Bourdain had a lot to say about the vegetarian lifestyle. He believed they disrespected those in developing countries, who have limited access to food and can’t afford to be picky. The chef considered eating vegetarian or vegan to represent a “first world luxury,” for that reason. However, he also acknowledged that Americans eat too much meat.
Next: The intrepid traveler did have a couple of fears, though.
15. He loved cats, but hated clowns
The traveler once told the Boston Herald that he considered himself “more of a cat person that a dog person.” And despite his risk-taking attitude and devil-may-care life, he did fear three things: clowns, mimes, and nurse’s shoes.
He gave the world a larger-than-life figure to emulate, in traveling, eating, and relating to different cultures and people across the world. Rest in peace.
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