Jewish-American celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain dead of suicide at 61

After a visit to Israel in 2013, he said: ‘Whatever you may think... you should see this’

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June 8, 2018 17:03
2 minute read.
Jewish-American celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain dead of suicide at 61

U.S. President Barack Obama talks with Anthony Bourdain after an interview at a shopping area of Hanoi, Vietnam May 24, 2016.. (photo credit: CARLOS BARRIA / REUTERS)

 
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Anthony Bourdain, a chef, writer and TV personality, was found dead in a French hotel on Friday at age 61. He had taken his own life.

Throughout his illustrious career, Bourdain was an unvarnished storyteller, first in the kitchen as a chef and then through his books, most famously 2000’s Kitchen Confidential – and later on screen, with his TV shows No Reservations and Parts Unknown.

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Bourdain, born in New York City to a Jewish mother and Catholic father, was known for his brash and candid approach to food, work and life. For the second season of CNN’s Parts Unknown in 2013, Bourdain brought the show to Israel, filming across the country and in Gaza.

The chef, who called himself an atheist and said he was raised without religion, stopped at the Western Wall during his visit to Jerusalem, donning a kippa and tefillin to pray.

“I’ve never been in a synagogue. I don’t believe in a higher power,” he said during the show. “But that doesn’t make me any less Jewish, I don’t think.”

Bourdain received both praise and criticism for the episode, titled “Jerusalem,” which explored food traditions in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank – visiting both Ramallah and a Jewish settlement – with a variety of personalities, including Israeli chef Yotam Ottolenghi.

This region, he said in the opening of the show, is “easily the most contentious piece of real estate in the world. And there’s no hope – none – of ever talking about it without pissing somebody, if not everybody, off.”

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But that didn’t stop Bourdain from trying to present the food – and conflict – in that small piece of real estate.

“Israel’s a really beautiful country. There’s beaches, great restaurants, nice people, all that history,” he said in the show. “When you’re in a place where you can point and say ‘Oh yeah, Jesus walked there, and in fact took a right turn right there,’ it’s a place where history is a factor.”

Wrapping up several days of filming across Israel, Bourdain said, “Whatever you may think, and whatever baggage you bring to this place, you should see this.”

Following his death, accolades for the celebrity chef poured in from around the globe, including from former president Barack Obama and dozens of Bourdain’s fellow chefs and TV personalities.

Author Gary Shteyngart recalled meeting Bourdain in Brooklyn during filming for an episode of No Reservations.

“He was gracious, brilliant and charmed every surly Russian in sight,” Shteyngart wrote on Twitter on Friday. “Everyone struggles. Each life comes with a long catalog of pain.”

Bourdain is survived by a daughter, Ariane, and his girlfriend, Asia Argento.

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