On June 8, 2018, outlets confirmed that famed chef and beloved TV personality Anthony Bourdain had died at the age of 61. Bourdain was in Kaysersberg, France, working on an episode of “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown,” when, one night, he failed to meet his friend and fellow chef, Eric Ripert, for dinner. The following morning, his body was discovered in his hotel room, as reported by Page Six.
Fan and celebrity reactions to Bourdain’s death immediately began pouring in as shock rocked the culinary community. His death also sparked interest, scrutiny, and speculation over the tragic details of Bourdain’s supposed double life. Soon, the last year of his life was closely analyzed, and a number of false narratives emerged. Despite being a public figure and being open about the highs and lows of his journey to fame, there were still many things fans did not know about Anthony Bourdain, as well as several facts they wrongly thought they knew. Here are seven false truths about Anthony Bourdain everyone believes.
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Anthony Bourdain started his career in New York City
Anthony Bourdain was a proud New Yorker. Despite growing up in New Jersey, he went to school in New York, first at Vassar College, then at The Culinary Institute of America. He graduated in 1978 and began a two-decade-long career in kitchens around the city, including the Rainbow Room. He eventually became executive chef of Manhattan’s Brasserie Les Halles and, in 1999, penned “Don’t Eat Before Reading This” for The New Yorker, which really put him on the map. But as his career took off, he never forgot his roots, even dedicating three episodes of “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown” to “the greatest city in the world.”
That said, New York is not where Bourdain discovered his culinary passion. As he told The Boston Globe, he and some high school friends rented a house in Provincetown in the summer and since he wasn’t contributing to the rent, he was pushed into a kitchen in Cape Cod. “Everybody I was living with was working in seasonal jobs at restaurants, either as cooks or floor staff,” he recalled, so “one night they just said, ‘We need a dishwasher and it’s going to be you.'” Subsequently, he says, he “fell in love with the whole business and the whole subculture.” As he told NPR in 2017, “I was a happy dishwasher … I learned every important lesson, all the most important lessons of my life as a dishwasher.”
Anthony Bourdain made his TV debut on the Travel Channel
Anthony Bourdain’s television career took off in 2005 when he signed up to host “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations” on the Travel Channel. For nine seasons, Bourdain traveled the world “to explore the cities, villages and countries that offer life’s truest surprises.” He kicked things off visiting Japan and China, then, in 2012, signed off in Brooklyn, New York. But that wasn’t the end of his partnership with the Travel Channel. From 2011 to 2013, Bourdain hosted another show on the network titled “The Layover” in which he made the most of one to two-day “layovers” for two action-packed seasons. From there, the famed chef hopped over to CNN to host “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown” for 12 seasons, starting in 2013. Over the years, Bourdain’s TV work won him eight Emmys out of an impressive 22 nominations, but all of the success may never have happened if it wasn’t for his very first hosting gig over at the Food Network.
While many fans wrongly (yet not surprisingly) assume that Bourdain got his start on the small screen thanks to the Travel Channel, in reality, it was the Food Network that had him host two seasons of “Anthony Bourdain’s: A Cook’s Tour” from 2002 to 2003. As Eater noted, Bourdain joined the network at a time when most celebrity shows were shot in studio and his unique approach “would become more familiar and mainstream in later projects.”
Drugs or alcohol played a part in Anthony Bourdain's death
Soon after CNN confirmed Anthony Bourdain’s death, speculation about the cause of death began as some wondered if drugs or alcohol had played a role. Over the years, Bourdain had spoken openly about his struggle with addiction, inspiring others and slamming the opioid epidemic along the way. As he told The New Yorker, he began using heroin in 1980 before turning to methadone to battle his addiction and eventually quitting cold turkey in 1987. He continued using cocaine, however, and recalled, “I just bottomed out on crack.” He gave both up and got sober in 1990, writing in “Kitchen Confidential” (via Yahoo! News), “Maybe because my experiences were so awful in the end, I’ve never been tempted to relapse.” He did continue to drink, though, and explained his decision in the book. “You see me drink myself stupid on my show all the time. And I have a lot of fun doing that. But I’m not sitting at home having a cocktail,” he wrote. “I don’t ever drink in my house […] I don’t let it bleed over into the rest of my life.”
The Chicago Tribune still pondered whether alcoholism played a role in Bourdain’s death, but the toxicology report released on June 22, 2018, put rumors to rest. It showed that there were no narcotics in his body, “save for the trace of a nonnarcotic medicine in a therapeutic dose,” per The New York Times.
If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
Anthony Bourdain was worth millions
Between his successful career as a chef, his award-winning TV shows, and his New York Times best-selling books, you might think that Anthony Bourdain had amassed millions. Indeed, Celebrity Net Worth estimated his fortune to be in the ballpark of $16 million at the time of his death in 2018. This figure took into account all of his liquid assets, including the Upper East Side apartment he purchased for $3.35 million in 2014 and which was put up for sale for $3.7 million in September 2018, per The Wall Street Journal. However, according to Page Six, the reality of Bourdain’s net worth was very different from his projected prosperity.
After consulting court documents that were filed in Manhattan Surrogate’s Court, Page Six reported that the chef’s actual net worth was just $1.21 million. That total was reportedly comprised of $425,000 in “cash and savings,” $35,000 in a brokerage account, $250,000 in “personal property,” and $500,000 in “intangible property including royalties and residuals.” There was also mention of a $1 million mortgage liability, which the outlet believed was likely related to his East 94th Street condo. As Bourdain himself once told Wealthsimple Magazine, “The reports of my net worth are about 10 times overstated. I think the people who calculate these things assume that I live a lot more sensibly than I do,” he revealed.
How much did Anthony Bourdain know about the allegations against Asia Argento?
Asia Argento was one of the first high-profile names to speak openly about the sexual assault she reportedly suffered at the hands of Harvey Weinstein, and Anthony Bourdain couldn’t have been prouder of his girlfriend. After Argento used her time on-stage at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival to deliver a “scalding speech” against the disgraced movie producer (via Vulture), Bourdain sang her praises, telling IndieWire, “I was so proud of her. It was absolutely fearless to walk right into the lion’s den and say what she said, the way she said it,” he noted, adding, “I am honored to know someone who has the strength and fearlessness to do something like that.”
But jump to August 2018, and Argento was accused of sexually assaulting former child actor Jimmy Bennett in a California hotel room in 2013 when he was 17 years old. The New York Times also learned that she reportedly paid Bennett $380,000 to silence him. How much did the famed chef know about the allegations? As it turns out, he was more involved in the scandal than many realized. While the Italian actress denied all allegations, she did admit that Bennett was given money — by Bourdain. Sharing that Bennett “unexpectedly made an exorbitant request of money,” she added that “Anthony was afraid of the possible negative publicity that … could have brought upon us” (via The Hollywood Reporter).
If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN’s National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).
Anthony Bourdain had 'the best job in the world'
Back in 2015, Anthony Bourdain told The Bergen Record (via USA Today) that he had “a dream of a job […] the best job in the world,” and declared that he’d never retire, saying, “I will probably die in the saddle.” But despite his claims that there was no better gig, it came with its challenges. For one, he was on the road for 250 days a year, per People, with only five days a month to spend with his daughter. He made it work, telling People, “I’ll go back, see my daughter, unpack, repack, mimic a normal life, which is extraordinarily pleasurable to me,” but it couldn’t have been easy.
What’s more, Bourdain also battled depression, which “the best job in the world” couldn’t banish. While a source told People that “his dark side was always there,” Rose McGowan tweeted, via Deadline, that “before Anthony died he reached out for help, and yet he did not take the doctor’s advice.” The chef himself also spoke candidly about his struggles. It was on a 2016 episode of “Parts Unknown” that he shared, per Metro, how “an insignificant thing,” like ordering a bad hamburger at an airport, could lead to “a spiral of depression that can last for days.” Comparing himself to Quasimodo, he revealed, “I feel kind of like a freak and I feel kind of isolated.” As travel journalist, Aaron Sagers wrote in a deeply personal op-ed for HuffPost following Bourdain’s death, “having it all” is a “dangerous myth.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.
We would never hear from Anthony Bourdain again
In October 2018, four months after Anthony Bourdain’s death, Dark Horse Comics’ Berger Books imprint announced that fans would be getting a new book from their favorite chef. More specifically, a comic book. Titled “Anthony Bourdain’s Hungry Ghosts,” the piece was co-authored by Bourdain and journalist Joel Rose (the pair previously published the New York Times bestseller “Get Jiro!” in 2013) and was officially described as a “horror anthology” in which “a Russian Oligarch dares a circle of international chefs to play the samurai game of 100 Candles — where each storyteller tells a terrifying tale of ghosts, demons and unspeakable beings — and prays to survive the challenge.”
Then, in February 2021, fans were treated to yet another book from Bourdain, which, as Travel + Leisure confirmed, he had begun writing before his death. In the end, it was his longtime assistant, Laurie Woolever, who was able to finish “World Travel: An Irreverent Guide” and it was published in April 2021. Publisher HarperCollins dubbed the 480-page title “an entertaining, practical, fun and frank travel guide” that shows readers “some of the world’s most fascinating places, as seen and experienced by writer, television host, and relentlessly curious traveler Anthony Bourdain.”
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