Why Anthony Bourdain Once Said Cooking for Christmas ‘Felt Like Bowling’

The famed celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain lived a life that seemed perfect to many. He was able to travel to incredible locations all over the world in his television show Parts Unknown, sampling delicious food and imbibing local cocktails.

Still, for the first leg of his career, Bourdain was a hardworking chef rather than a television personality, working in the kitchen late into the night. Bourdain opened up in a 2012 interview, discussing how he felt about Christmas in the early days of his career and how it differed from the way he spent the holidays as a parent.

Keep reading to learn about how Bourdain first rose to fame, and what he had to say about the holiday season.

Anthony Bourdain was a classically-trained chef

Anthony Bourdain
Anthony Bourdain | Mike Pont/WireImage

Bourdain was born in 1956 in New York City, but he spent the majority of his childhood and formative years in New Jersey. When he was very young, his family took a vacation to France, where he later revealed his love for cooking and food was first sparked.

Instead of committing to college full-time, Bourdain decided to work in seafood restaurants, developing his technique and knowledge of the kitchen. After his stint working in restaurants, Bourdain attended The Culinary Institute of America.

Following his graduation, he began managing a series of restaurants, including Sullivan’s and Supper Club, both in New York City. In the late nineties, Bourdain began his long association with Brasserie Les Halles, a Manhattan-based restaurant. He was elevated to the ranks of executive chef and continued to work with the restaurant chain for many years.

Around the same time, he began writing about his experiences with food. His books “Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly” and “A Cook’s Tour” were bestsellers, and were widely praised by critics and fans alike. Bourdain’s books also helped establish his identity as the “culinary rockstar” and led to his work on television. 

Christmas was Anthony Bourdain’s ‘busy season’

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In a 2012 interview, Bourdain talked about his relationship with the holidays. He admitted that for nearly twenty-eight years, Christmas was his “busy season” and meant putting in extra hours in the kitchen.

Bourdain said that, in fact, the holidays felt “like bowling” because he and his kitchen crew would serve so many meals during that time. While he claimed that he would take the time to enjoy a quick kitchen champagne toast, he couldn’t remember a time where he even brought any special Christmas dishes home with him.

Still, he did work in a few restaurants that were closed on Christmas day during his early career. On those rare occasions, Bourdain would spend the holidays with his parents or in-laws, eating traditional holiday meals like turkey and stuffing. 

How did Anthony Bourdain spend Christmas in his later years?

Bourdain and his then-wife Ottavia Busia welcomed a daughter named Ariane in 2007. In his interview, Bourdain revealed that after his daughter was born, the way he celebrated the holidays changed dramatically.

Bourdain made it a point to be at home on Christmas Eve so that he and his wife could coordinate presents for their daughter, and then open presents in their pajamas the following morning. He also would make the traditional turkey. Though, likely, he prepared it with extra-special touches.

Sadly, Bourdain passed away in June 2018. His death was unexpected and came as a shock to many, especially to those in the culinary world who looked to Bourdain as a major influence. Still, his legacy will live on, both in his work and in the memories he was able to make with his daughter.