The chef, television host and author Anthony Bourdain died on Friday at 61. CNN, the network on which his TV show “Parts Unknown” aired, said that he killed himself in a hotel in France, where he was working on an episode. He has left his mark in restaurant kitchens and libraries — both fiction and nonfiction. And as The Times obituary said, “as an author and then a host,” he had redefined “the staid genres of food writing and food-tourism shows with an inquisitive but rebellious image that endeared him to fellow chefs, restaurant-goers and travelers.”
Here is what to read, what to watch and what to listen to by and about Anthony Bourdain.
In His Own Words
The New Yorker
In his famous 1999 New Yorker piece about what really goes on in restaurant kitchens, “Don’t Eat Before Reading This,” Bourdain warned readers, “If you are one of those people who cringe at the thought of strangers fondling your food, you shouldn’t go out to eat … By the time a three-star crew has finished carving and arranging your saddle of monkfish with dried cherries and wild-herb-infused nage into a Parthenon or a Space Needle, it’s had dozens of sweaty fingers all over it.”
The New York Times
Shortly after the publication of his 2000 memoir, “Kitchen Confidential,” The Times spent an evening in the kitchen with Bourdain at his restaurant, Les Halles. “People ask us to do some pretty ugly things to the food,” he admitted. “But I don’t throw plates any more. I don’t try to make people cry any more.”
For one of T Magazine’s famous illustrated interviews, Bourdain sketched a quick, funny caricature of himself — and said that the one food he would never touch was a cheeseburger from Johnny Rockets.
The New York Times
In a 2017 “By the Book” column, Bourdain confessed that the best book about food that he has ever read was A.J. Liebling’s “Between Meals,” a “memoir of meals in Paris before and after the war. He described Liebling as “an enthusiastic lover of food and wine, very knowledgeable but never a snob.” And he called the book “fantastic” and “the benchmark for great food writing.”
The New Yorker
In a lengthy 2017 profile of Bourdain in The New Yorker, fellow chef Eric Ripert told the magazine that he thought Bourdain was driven, at least in part, “‘by a fear of what he might get up to if he ever stopped working.’ ‘I’m a guy who needs a lot of projects,’ Bourdain acknowledged. ‘I would probably have been happy as an air-traffic controller.’”
What to Read
‘Bone in the Throat,’ 1995
In her review of “Bone in the Throat,” Bourdain’s first novel, The Times crime columnist Marilyn Stasio, wrote, “The author’s comic vision goes beyond original. It is deliciously depraved.”
‘Kitchen Confidential,’ 2000
Of the book that put Bourdain on the map — a no-holds-barred look at how a restaurant kitchen really works — The Times wrote, “In a style partaking of Hunter S. Thompson, Iggy Pop and a little Jonathan Swift, Bourdain gleefully rips through the scenery to reveal private backstage horrors little dreamed of by the trusting public.”
What to Listen To
‘Fresh Air’ interview
Bourdain sat down with Fresh Air’s Dave Davies in 2016 for a wide-ranging interview in which he admitted, “When I cook at home it’s with a 9-year-old girl in mind. I mean, she’s who I need to please, and if she’s not happy, I’m not happy.”
Bourdain, fellow chef Danny Bowien and The Times’s Kim Severson spent a lively hour discussing global food waste in a Times Talk.
What to Stream
Bourdain’s travel and food show, currently in its 11th season on CNN, has been a cultural force since its inception, winning five Emmys and a Peabody Award so far. (Eight seasons are available right now on Netflix.) The series uses food as an entryway to nuanced conversations with people across the world about their politics, their daily lives, their hopes and fears, and there is seemingly nowhere “Parts” hasn’t explored — including Myanmar in the early 2010s, as well as countries and regions like Gaza and the West Bank and Iran, offering local perspectives rarely seen on Western TV. The show’s punk stylings, the obvious delight Bourdain takes in eating with Michelin star chefs and roadside food vendors alike, and the show’s diverse array of special guests (President Barack Obama, Iggy Pop and the director Darren Aronofsky are just a few) combine to make “Parts” a thoughtful and exciting world tour.
“No Reservations” is where Bourdain’s TV career really took off. The show debuted on the Travel Channel in 2005, showcasing Bourdain’s signature curiosity, swagger and lyricism. As food- and travel-blogging exploded, “No Reservations” became the gold standard for thoughtful adventure — and because the Travel Channel felt awfully obscure, the show sometimes felt like a hip secret. That secret got out in 2006, when Bourdain and his crew got stuck in Beirut during an armed conflict; that episode is among the show’s most interesting because it’s the exact opposite of other lifestyle shows. “No Reservations” went on to 12 Emmy nominations (and two wins). The show is available for purchase on Amazon.
‘The Mind of a Chef’
Bourdain produced and narrated this brainier, more personal approach to the shameless pleasures of food porn. Still, he kept himself mostly out of the spotlight, training it instead on a rotating cast of Michelin-approved chefs and restaurateurs as they explained their relationships to specific foods or regions. In one installment, the Momofuku mastermind David Chang effuses about his lifelong passion for ramen; in another, the British virtuoso April Bloomfield gives a survey of bangers and mash. It’s a light and positive celebration of food and culture — a departure from the quick-cut chaos of such crowd-pleasers as “Iron Chef” or “Chopped” — with fresh insights from authoritative and camera-friendly personalities. The show ran for five seasons on BBC and PBS, which are all available on Netflix. (A sixth aired last year on Facebook Watch.)
Sharing a Beer With President Barack Obama
Bourdain was someone everyone wanted to eat with — knowing his enthusiasm could get them into restaurants, and to experience food, they otherwise never would. This was best shown in 2016, when the White House asked if President Barack Obama could eat with him during an official visit to Vietnam.
Cooking Hashish Sweets in Morocco
Bourdain was candid about past drug use, which included cocaine and heroin. He was also unafraid to discuss drugs in his TV show. In this clip from an episode of “Parts Unknown” in Morocco he learned Moroccans make hashish-containing sweets.
“Of course network standards and practices prohibit me from even tasting this delicious and reportedly mind-altering treat,” he said.
Evangelizing for the Waffle House
“An irony free zone where everything is beautiful and nothing hurts,” is how Mr. Bourdain describes Charleston, S.C. “Where everybody regardless of race, creed, color or degree of inebriation is welcome.”
Bourdain was so associated with globe-trotting it is easy to forget his love of the United States’ own cuisine, and it comes across fully in this ode to a waffle house. It is “a beacon of hope and salvation inviting the hungry, the lost, the seriously hammered, all across the South to come inside,” he added.
Giving Insights Into Iran
“Parts Unknown” often felt like a commentary on foreign policy. In this episode in Iran, for instance, Bourdain experiences the country’s hospitality in full force by eating in a family home.
It took Bourdain years to get clearance to enter the country, he told Anderson Cooper, saying he saw a country that’s totally different from how it’s discussed in the news media.
It is “a very hopeful place, filled with yearning, where people every day, particularly women I think, are in very small ways testing the limits of what is permissible, trying to define in fits and starts who they want to be as a country,” he said.
Charles Bramesco, Margaret Lyons and Eleanor Stanford contributed reporting.
Anthony Bourdain’s death prompted an outpouring of grief and tributes