Anthony Bourdain

On this date in 1956, maverick chef, celebrity epicure, author and travel host Anthony Bourdain was born in New York City to Pierre and Gladys Bourdain. He grew up in New Jersey. Although his father was Catholic and his mother was Jewish, Bourdain was raised without religion. He graduated from Dwight-Englewood High School and attended Vassar for two years before dropping out. He started working at seafood restaurants in Provincetown, Mass., then graduated from the Culinary Institute in 1978 and began running kitchens in New York City.

In the 1990s, Bourdain became the executive chef at Brasserie Les Halles in Lower Manhattan where he served steak frites and onion soup. During his time working there, he sent an unsolicited article to The New Yorker detailing the gritty, subterranean world of urban restaurant culture. 

To his surprise the article was accepted and noticed by book editors. This resulted in Bourdain’s memoir, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly. The book branded Bourdain as a celebrity chef and earned him a new career on TV. Bourdain first hosted “A Cook’s Tour” on the Food Network before he spent eight seasons as a peripatetic host of Travel Channel’s “No Reservations,” on which he highlighted obscure cuisine and little-known restaurants.

On the show, Bourdain recharacterized line cooks as urban warriors and shined new light on a kitchen culture involving drugs, drinking and brutal hours. Bourdain was open about his past addictions with cocaine in the 1980s and alcohol abuse. He joined CNN in 2012 to host the show “Parts Unknown,” on which he explored political and historical topics with locals in countries across the globe often over food and drinks.

Bourdain earned multiple awards and nominations for his shows, including two Emmys for “No Reservations” and the Peabody Award in 2013 for “Parts Unknown.” He had the spirit of an activist and diplomat, advocated for marginalized populations and campaigned for safer working conditions for restaurant staffs. Several times on his television show, Bourdain mentioned that he didn’t believe in religion and was critical of religious hypocrisy.

Bourdain married his high school girlfriend in 1985 and they divorced in 2005. In 2007 he married Ottavia Busia, and they had a daughter born that same year. The couple separated in 2016. Bourdain began dating Italian actress Asia Argento in 2017 and, following her sexual abuse allegations against Harvey Weinstein, he became an ardent advocate against sexual harassment in restaurants and Hollywood. While working on an episode for “Parts Unknown” in France, Bourdain committed suicide in his hotel room. D. 2018.

Freedom From Religion Foundation