The beloved chef, food writer, and TV host who brought the world—and its flavors—into our homes has passed away at the age of 61. Here’s a look back on the life of a man who lived with No Reservations.
Don’t Eat Before You Read This
After working for years in some of New York’s best restaurants, Bourdain decided to give writing a try. In 1999, the 33-year-old chef wrote “Don’t Eat Before You Read This,” a gritty, warts-and-all behind-the-scenes look at what it’s like to work in a kitchen. (It’s not pretty.) He sent it unsolicited to the New Yorker, where it became so popular Bourdain got a deal to write a book-length expansion called Kitchen Confidential.
That book became a bestseller, and set Bourdain off on the path of writing about food, but it wasn’t the first book he published. In the ‘90s he published two crime novels, Bone in the Throat and Gone Bamboo. They didn’t sell well and quickly went out of print.
Defining a New TV Genre
Bourdain’s TV work originated a new TV genre: the food-based travelogue. Bourdain also wrote most of the narration himself. They’re commonplace on television and streaming services now, but he popularized the form with A Cook’s Tour on Food Network, No Reservations on the Travel Channel, and Parts Unknown on CNN.
Bradley Cooper as “Jack”
His only TV flop—a TV sitcom version of Kitchen Confidential. A pre-fame Bradley Cooper starred on the short-lived 2005 Fox series as Bourdain, who was renamed “Jack” for some reason.
Setting an Example
Bourdain was outspoken about a lot of things, but he saved his most vitriolic words for, ironically enough, other TV food personalities. He once called Paula Deen, the former Food Network expert on high-calorie and high-fat Southern cuisine, “the worst, most dangerous person in America.” When she revealed to the world that she had type 2 diabetes, Bourdain remarked, “When your signature dish is a hamburger in between a doughnut, and you’ve been cheerfully selling this stuff knowing all along that you’ve got type 2 diabetes, it’s in bad taste if nothing else. When Rachael Ray signed a deal with Dunkin’ Donuts, he likened it to “like endorsing crack for kids.”
Earning a Blue Belt
After his second marriage, to a mixed martial artist, Bourdain took up an interest in combat sports. He earned his blue belt in Brazilian jujitsu in 2015, and just a year later, won a gold medal in the age 56 and older division at the New York Spring International Open Championship.
Least Favorite Foods
While Bourdain ate all kinds of exotic, strange, and unfamiliar foods while shooting his shows Parts Unknown and No Reservations, he once said that the most disgusting he ever ate was…a Chicken McNugget from McDonald’s. (However, the two foods that he says he liked the least in his televised travels: warthog rectum in Namibia and fermented shark in Iceland.)
(P.S…..you will be missed.)