Anthony Bourdain has been found dead, aged 61.
Anthony Bourdain has been found dead, aged 61.

Bourdain’s dark past of ‘despair’

ANTHONY Bourdain might've been best known for his ability to cook and review food like no one else but it was the way he never shied away from addressing his dark past that made him a breath of fresh air for most of his fans.

Years before the beloved celebrity chef took his own life in a hotel room in Paris, the vibrant and brutally honest personality was lauded for openly talking about his battles with drug addiction, the loneliness fame could bring and dealing with depression.

Whether he was reviewing food, sticking up for those who weren't able to do so themselves or even addressing the times he'd considered suicide, Bourdain's unique voice never wavered.

He never minced words or lied about his past, regularly speaking about his heroin addiction and the times he thought about ending his own life.

In October 2016, when Bourdain sat down with Marketplace, the publication asked him what the hardest part of his job was.

"Loneliness, separation from my daughter, existential despair. I'm on the road about 250 days a year and I stay in a lot of beautiful places and look out the window at a lot of beautiful views, but I am usually alone," he said.

Bourdain was found dead in a Paris hotel room yesterday by his friend and fellow chef Eric Ripert after taking his own life. He was 61 and is survived by his 11-year-old daughter Ariane.

While he was open about his dark past, he also didn't pull any punches when reviewing food.

"I ate at Johnny Rockets in an airport once and it opened up an abyss of depression and self-loathing, a spiral of self-hatred, rage, and despair that lasted weeks," he told the publication.

In his 2000 book Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly - the book that would propel him to fame - Bourdain spoke about using cocaine, heroin, LSD, weed and mushrooms.

"We were high all the time, sneaking off to the walk-in refrigerator at every opportunity to 'conceptualise'. Hardly a decision was made without drugs. Cannabis, methaqualone, cocaine, LSD, psilocybin mushrooms soaked in honey and used to sweeten tea, secobarbital, tuinal, amphetamine, codeine and, increasingly, heroin, which we'd send a Spanish-speaking busboy over to Alphabet City to get," he wrote, referring to his time cooking in a New York City restaurant in the 1980s.


Anthony Bourdain had no qualms about addressing his past. Picture: Richard Shotwell
Anthony Bourdain had no qualms about addressing his past. Picture: Richard Shotwell

In an interview withThe Guardian in 2013, Bourdain admitted he took drugs as early as he could.

"I deeply resented the relative stability at my house. I started taking drugs as soon as I encountered them," the chef said.

It was Bourdain's sudden death that has many of his fans reflecting on his earlier years - something the celebrity chef did himself when he visited Massachusetts in 2014 and explored the heroin epidemic in an episode of his show Parts Unknown.

While working in Provincetown, Massachusetts, in the 1980s, Bourdain developed an addiction to heroin, or a "taste for chemicals", as he called it.

At the end of the episode, Bourdain sat in a room with other recovering heroin addicts and spoke to them about how he got past it.

"I looked in a mirror and I saw somebody worth saving, or that I wanted to at least try real hard and save," he said.

"I look back on that, and I think about what I'll tell my daughter. You know, that was daddy, ain't no doubt about it. But I hope that I'll be able to say that was daddy then, this is daddy now - that I'm alive, and living, and hope."

In an interview with in 2016, Bourdain spoke about quitting heroin in the 1980s and whether or not he had a "charmed" life.

"I don't know about 'charmed'. But I'm still here - on my third life, or maybe fourth. Who knows? I should've died in my 20s. I became successful in my 40s. I became a dad in my 50s. I feel like I've stolen a car - a really nice car - and I keep looking in the rear-view mirror for flashing lights. But there's been nothing yet," he said.


In recent months, Bourdain had become an outspoken advocate for the Me Too movement.

More than a decade after he wrote about his drug use in his first book Kitchen Confidential, Bourdain apologised for the bestseller after a number of sexual misconduct reports were levelled at fellow celebrity chef Mario Batali.

Unwavering, Bourdain withdrew the years of praise he had bestowed on Batali.

"I will not waste anybody's time with expressions of shock, surprise, or personal upset, beyond saying that I am ashamed that I was clearly not the kind of person that women friends who knew - and had stories to tell - felt comfortable confiding in," Bourdain wrote in a piece for Medium.

"To the extent which my work in Kitchen Confidential celebrated or prolonged a culture that allowed the kind of grotesque behaviours we're hearing about all too frequently is something I think about daily, with real remorse," he added.

Before his death, Bourdain was also supporting his girlfriend Asia Argento after she told The New Yorker she had been raped by Harvey Weinstein.

Tweeting her article in October last year, Bourdain addressed his girlfriend and her allegations at the once-powerful Hollywood producer.

"I am proud and honoured to know you. You just did the hardest thing in the world," he wrote.

Asia Argento and Anthony Bourdain. Picture: Neilson Barnard
Asia Argento and Anthony Bourdain. Picture: Neilson Barnard

But it wasn't just the Me Too movement that Bourdain threw his support behind.

In 2012, when small town food reviewer Marilyn Hagerty from Grand Forks, North Dakota, wrote a review on the town's new Olive Garden, she was universally mocked online.

Instead of joining the cruel chorus, Bourdain poured his support and money into then 88-year-old.

Bourdain defended her viral review, which earnt the food reviewer a trip to New York City.

"Marilyn Hagerty's years of reviews [are] a history of dining in the America [sic] too few of us from the coasts have seen. We need to see," he tweeted in March 2012.

While in New York, Ms Hagerty met with the chef and a year later, published 100 of her reviews in a book that Bourdain edited.

After Bourdain's death, Ms Hagerty thanked the chef for celebrating her work, rather than mocking her with the rest of the world.

"Anthony Bourdain spoke up for me at a time when people all over the country were making great fun of the column I write," Hagerty told BuzzFeed. "To have a man of his stature rise up and befriend me, it meant a lot to me."


Bourdain's apparent suicide comes just days after designer Kate Spade, who built a fashion empire on her signature handbags, took her own life in her New York apartment.

Both Spade and Bourdain were vocal about their struggles with depression.

Just four months before the beloved chef died in his hotel room, he eerily spoke about death in an interview with People magazine.

"I'm going to pretty much die in the saddle," he told the magazine in February while filming his show Parts Unknown.

Bourdain said he spent about 250 days a year on the road - but wasn't planning on retiring from his globetrotting life any time soon.

"I gave up on that. I've tried. I just think I'm just too nervous, neurotic, driven," he said.

"I would have had a different answer a few years ago. I might have deluded myself into thinking that I'd be happy in a hammock or gardening. But no, I'm quite sure I can't."

The beloved TV personality also spoke about the birth of Ariane and how she'd given him "some responsibility to at least try to live".

"There have been times, honestly, in my life that I figured, I've had a good run - why not just do this stupid thing, this selfish thing … jump off a cliff into water of indeterminate depth," he said.

But he also described himself to People as being "happy in ways that I have not been in memory" and "happy in ways I didn't think I ever would be, for sure".

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