Inside Anthony Bourdain's globe-trotting career

Anthony Bourdain went from dishwasher to globe-trotting storyteller.He ...

Posted: Jun 9, 2018 10:00 AM
Updated: Jun 9, 2018 10:00 AM

Anthony Bourdain went from dishwasher to globe-trotting storyteller.

He shared noodles and beer with President Barack Obama in Vietnam, won accolades exploring the world and its tastes, and built a business out of his legendary palette. His body of work was as expansive as his appetite.

His book "Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly," published in 2000, was translated into more than two dozen languages. He produced a travel journal, three crime novels, a cookbook, a biography of Typhoid Mary, and a graphic novel. His shows took him to more than 100 countries and aired on three networks.

Bourdain took his own life at age 61, CNN said Friday.

From angry kid to happy dishwasher

He worked his first job in a kitchen at age 13, growing up in Leonia, New Jersey.

"It was really a big event for me because, up to that point, I was lazy," Bourdain said in a 2016 interview on NPR's "Fresh Air." "I was an angry kid."

Bourdain found meaning in the disciplined structure of the work. "I was a happy dishwasher. I jokingly say that I learned every important lesson, all the most important lessons of my life, as a dishwasher."

He attended Vassar College in New York for two years, then dropped out and enrolled in culinary school. For years, he worked as a line cook and sous chef at restaurants in the Northeast before landing a job as executive chef at Brasserie Les Halles, in Manhattan.

A best-seller that 'changed everything'

Bourdain's big break didn't come with a novelty dish or rapturous reviews of his food.

Instead, he caught widespread public attention with "Don't Eat Before Reading This," a piece he wrote for The New Yorker in 1999 about the secrets of life in the kitchen and the shady characters he encountered along the way.

How to get help: Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

"I came into the business when cooks still smoked on the line and wore headbands," Bourdain wrote. "In America, the professional kitchen is the last refuge of the misfit. It's a place for people with bad pasts to find a new family."

The article led to a book deal. "Kitchen Confidential" became a best-seller and launched Bourdain into a new career.

"When the book came out, it very quickly transformed my life - I mean, changed everything," he told NPR.

Panio Gianopoulos, who edited the book for Bloomsbury, recalled receiving draft chapters from Bourdain.

"They would come in and they were so candid and brutally funny. The voice was so polished and yet so raw - this strange paradox," Gianopoulos told CNNMoney. "It felt like I was sitting at the bar while he was riffing to fellow cooks after a particularity brutal dinner shift."

Gianopoulos remembered walking into a colleague's office and saying, "If we can't make this a best-seller, we don't deserve to work in this industry."

Celebrity chef and cultural ambassador

"Kitchen Confidential" and his second book, "A Cook's Tour," helped Bourdain make the transition to television.

Food Network developed "A Cook's Tour" into a TV series of the same name. It ran for two seasons, in 2002 and 2003.

"From the get-go, Tony was very real," said Liane Thompson, the executive producer. "It wasn't about him. It was about what could be discovered. Tony wanted that to come through food."

She attributed Bourdain's success to his ability to connect with people in the places he visited.

Bourdain then moved to the Travel Channel as the star of "Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations," which debuted in 2005. "No Reservations" was a breakout hit, earning two Emmy Awards and more than a dozen nominations over nine seasons.

The shows shared an indelible style: Bourdain took his viewers to far corners of the world and used food to tell stories about culture and identity. He broke the mold of a celebrity TV chef, becoming a versatile correspondent sharing first-person accounts of exotic cuisines and foreign lands.

Bourdain was also a television producer. His recent documentary films included "Wasted! The Story of Food Waste" and "Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent," about a pioneering chief. He was also an executive producer for CNN's documentary series "Christiane Amanpour: Sex & Love Around the World."

"Tony changed the food media landscape," said Ed Levine, a former New York Times contributor and the founder of SeriousEats.com. "He introduced humanity and real emotion and poetry into food storytelling. His voice is irreplaceable."

CNN took a risk by bringing him to a news network to create a documentary series that examined cuisines, both around the world and in the United States, from Bourdain's distinctive cultural viewpoint.

The late David Carr, a media critic for The New York Times, wrote of the hiring: "Given his track record, chances are high that Mr. Bourdain's run of luck will continue, but we will have to wait to find out if that good fortune will also smile on CNN."

It did. Bourdain quickly became a face of the network, helping it expand beyond headlines to culture and documentary series. "Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown" premiered in 2013 and won five Emmy Awards and a Peabody Award.

The 11th season of "Parts Unknown" premiered in April. The lineup of destinations was vintage Bourdain: Uruguay, Armenia, Bhutan, Newfoundland and West Virginia, among others.

In a video for "Explore Parts Unknown," a digital partnership between Bourdain, CNN and the travel site Roads & Kingdoms, Bourdain once reflected on the demands of what he had built.

He talked about traveling more than 200 days a year, the double-edged sword of celebrity and the balance of being true to your voice without selling out.

In a philosophical turn, he gently mocked himself. Believing you have something to say to a television camera or in a book, he said, is "aberrant behavior."

"To believe something so unreasonable as, 'I have an interesting story to tell that total strangers will be interested in spending hours following. That ain't normal."

Still, he said: "I do have the best job in the world. Who am I going to complain to? The boss? That's me."

- CNN's Brian Stelter contributed to this story.

Asking for help

The suicide rate in the United States has seen sharp increases in recent years. It's now the 10th leading cause of death in the country, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Studies have shown that the risk of suicide declines sharply when people call the national suicide hotline: 1-800-273-TALK

There is also a crisis text line.

The lines are staffed by a mix of paid professionals and unpaid volunteers trained in crisis and suicide intervention. The confidential environment, the 24-hour accessibility, a caller's ability to hang up at any time and the person-centered care have helped its success, advocates say.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 36716

Reported Deaths: 1482
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin11892776
Ramsey4724218
Stearns228719
Dakota221889
Anoka2124107
Nobles16556
Olmsted105815
Washington102540
Mower9282
Rice8247
Scott6714
Clay57637
Kandiyohi5651
Wright4485
Blue Earth4222
Todd4002
Carver3481
Lyon3002
Sherburne2974
Freeborn2860
Steele2190
Benton2083
Watonwan2060
St. Louis16915
Martin1615
Nicollet14912
Cottonwood1340
Goodhue1248
Winona11915
Pine1030
Crow Wing10212
Chisago951
Otter Tail921
Le Sueur861
McLeod850
Carlton830
Dodge810
Polk812
Unassigned8137
Chippewa761
Itasca6512
Isanti640
Douglas610
Meeker581
Waseca580
Morrison571
Becker550
Jackson540
Faribault530
Murray510
Pennington510
Sibley482
Mille Lacs342
Brown312
Wabasha310
Rock290
Yellow Medicine290
Beltrami280
Renville282
Fillmore270
Pipestone261
Houston240
Norman200
Swift201
Wilkin203
Redwood170
Wadena150
Aitkin140
Big Stone140
Kanabec141
Koochiching141
Cass122
Marshall120
Pope100
Lincoln90
Roseau90
Grant80
Clearwater70
Mahnomen71
Lake60
Hubbard50
Traverse50
Lac qui Parle40
Stevens40
Red Lake30
Kittson20
Cook10
Lake of the Woods00

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 29429

Reported Deaths: 716
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk6120178
Woodbury317744
Black Hawk213058
Buena Vista169711
Linn121582
Dallas119429
Johnson11818
Marshall101618
Story7223
Pottawattamie70111
Wapello70130
Crawford6672
Scott66410
Muscatine62044
Dubuque53922
Sioux4570
Tama45129
Wright3750
Louisa36013
Jasper31817
Plymouth3054
Dickinson2492
Warren2491
Washington2299
Hamilton1851
Webster1682
Boone1361
Allamakee1264
Clarke1262
Clay1260
Mahaska11517
Shelby1060
Cerro Gordo1051
Poweshiek1048
Clinton991
Bremer886
Carroll861
Des Moines853
Pocahontas841
Henry823
Taylor790
Franklin780
Cedar771
Emmet750
Cherokee730
Monona710
Floyd662
Marion660
Guthrie644
Hardin630
Sac630
Benton591
Osceola560
Jones550
Jefferson530
Harrison510
Humboldt511
Iowa500
Monroe506
Lee492
Butler472
Calhoun472
Hancock470
Buchanan461
Delaware451
Lyon400
Clayton393
Davis381
Madison372
Grundy340
Mills340
Fayette330
Kossuth320
Winneshiek320
Palo Alto310
Lucas304
Greene280
Mitchell280
Chickasaw270
Howard270
Winnebago260
Jackson250
Union250
Ida220
Appanoose203
Page200
Keokuk191
Van Buren190
Cass170
Audubon161
Adair150
Ringgold150
Worth140
Decatur100
Montgomery102
Adams80
Wayne80
Fremont70
Unassigned40
Rochester
Clear
77° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 79°
Mason City
Clear
79° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 82°
Albert Lea
Clear
81° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 84°
Austin
Clear
81° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 84°
Charles City
Clear
79° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 81°
HOT AND HUMID
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Restaurants in Minnesota might shut down again

Image

SMART Transit delivered thousands of meals

Image

The miraculous catch

Image

New Swine Flu

Image

Charles City athlete is taunted with racial comments

Image

RPD Policy Listening Session

Image

Covid-19 4th of July Plans

Image

Will racism be declared a public health crisis in Olmsted County?

Image

Helping the homeless in Rochester

Image

Sean's 4PM Weather 7/1

Community Events