Anthony Bourdain Commits Suicide

Days after designer Kate Spade killed herself, depression has claimed another celebrity.

CNN (“CNN’s Anthony Bourdain dead at 61“):

Anthony Bourdain, a gifted storyteller and writer who took CNN viewers around the world, has died. He was 61.

CNN confirmed Bourdain’s death on Friday and said the cause of death was suicide.

“It is with extraordinary sadness we can confirm the death of our friend and colleague, Anthony Bourdain,” the network said in a statement Friday morning. “His love of great adventure, new friends, fine food and drink and the remarkable stories of the world made him a unique storyteller. His talents never ceased to amaze us and we will miss him very much. Our thoughts and prayers are with his daughter and family at this incredibly difficult time.”

Bourdain was in France working on an upcoming episode of his award-winning CNN series “Parts Unknown.” His close friend Eric Ripert, the French chef, found Bourdain unresponsive in his hotel room Friday morning.

Bourdain was a master of his crafts — first in the kitchen and then in the media. Through his TV shows and books, he explored the human condition and helped audiences think differently about food, travel and themselves. He advocated for marginalized populations and campaigned for safer working conditions for restaurant staffs.

Along the way, he received practically every award the industry has to offer.

In 2013, Peabody Award judges honored Bourdain and “Parts Unknown” for “expanding our palates and horizons in equal measure.”

“He’s irreverent, honest, curious, never condescending, never obsequious,” the judges said. “People open up to him and, in doing so, often reveal more about their hometowns or homelands than a traditional reporter could hope to document.”

The Smithsonian once called him “the original rock star” of the culinary world, “the Elvis of bad boy chefs.”

In 1999 he wrote a New Yorker article, “Don’t Eat Before Reading This,” that became a best-selling book in 2000, “Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly.”

The book set him on a path to international stardom.

There were certainly famous television chefs before Bourdain—Julia Child, Graham Kerr, and Rachael Ray come to mind—they were of a very different mold. Bourdain popularized the “bad boy” chef that others have taken off the rails.

More importantly, Bourdain is yet another newsworthy example of what seems to be a national epidemic of depression. This news breaks while Kate Spade, the fashion designer who killed herself Tuesday, is still in the headlines.

FILED UNDER: Health, Obituaries
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. dmhlt says:

    Requiescat In Pace

  2. KM says:

    I loved his shows – he had an brutal honesty that lead to some thoughtful insights and wasn’t afraid to say he was wrong about his misconceptions. You will be missed, sir.

  3. Ben Wolf says:

    More importantly, Bourdain is yet another newsworthy example of what seems to be a national epidemic of depression.

    Rates of anti-depressant use, alcohol and drug addiction are sky-high even among the “successful.” And it ought to tell us there’s something very wrong in our society that those who have followed the social conventions and Made It are no happier than those who struggle. Depression, addiction and suicide have risen in lockstep with widespread self-reporting of isolation, loneliness and lack of control over one’s own life.

    We on the left have done a lousy job of offering an alternative to capitalism. When we haven’t collaborated with it we created the gulag (which was explicitly predicted by Bakunin). And so the soullessness and destruction of community and individuality inherent within capitalism have ground on and done exactly what Marx predicted it would do by undermining itself. It’s difficult to say there’s much difference between modern American society and Soviet society; both are grim, conformist and unfree. The U.S. just took longer to get there.

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  4. James Pearce says:

    Sad news. I haven’t seen very many details on the suicide angle, but I wonder if he’d started using again.

  5. michael reynolds says:

    Julia Child, Graham Kerr and Rachel Ray were cooks, even great home or TV cooks. Bourdain was a restaurant guy, part of a distinct subculture. Bourdain’s stood for eight hours in 110 degree heat with burns and cuts all up and down his arms, talking trash, flirting, a cig hanging from his lip, putting up orders. If I have a tribe of my own it’s not writers it’s restaurant people. This hit home.

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  6. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    My jaw dropped when I saw this on TV this morning.
    Devastating.
    I feel for his family and daughter.
    Why? Why can’t we, as a society, do better with this?
    I’ve noticed that Anne Marie Cox has been tweeting on depression and suicide for the last few days.
    I wish Anthony had seen them.
    RIP, good man.

  7. Kathy says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    And it ought to tell us there’s something very wrong in our society that those who have followed the social conventions and Made It are no happier than those who struggle. Depression, addiction and suicide have risen in lockstep with widespread self-reporting of isolation, loneliness and lack of control over one’s own life.

    I won’t claim to understand depression, but it is a mental illness that’s not dependent on money, wealth, success or failure. You may as well look at rates of epilepsy, autism, arthritis and so on and indict a social class based on that.

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  8. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    People suffering from depression aren’t capable of knowing that they need a lifeboat, or they are simply unable to ask for one.
    Offering someone you know a lifeboat, without being asked, can save their life.

  9. James Pearce says:

    @Kathy:

    I won’t claim to understand depression, but it is a mental illness that’s not dependent on money, wealth, success or failure.

    I understand, and experience, depression.

    It’s a mental illness, yes, but it’s not just about brain chemistry. That’s why I was wondering if there was some kind of inciting incident here. Depressed people can survive thousands of days until they experience that one day that makes them say “F it” and trust me, Pfizer has no capacity to stop that kind of thing.

  10. michael reynolds says:

    @James Pearce:
    I’ve never fallen all the way into depression but a couple years ago I got close to it, like walking along the lip of the Grand Canyon and feeling that big, scary hole very close at hand. I’d always been glib about it (being a self-inflating helium balloon,) but getting right up to the edge of it, feeling its gravitational pull, was enough to scare me.

  11. CSK says:

    When my father died several years ago, I tried to get in touch with an old acquaintance who’d been fond of my father. I couldn’t, because he’d committed suicide two weeks earlier. The cause was depression, which, according to his fiancee, he’d tried to combat with alcohol. He wasn’t a household name, like Bourdain, but he was a successful writer.

    It’s not something you forget. Ever.

  12. CSK says:

    @michael reynolds:

    It gives me no pleasure to say this, but writers–and Bourdain was a good one–are more likely than most to suffer from depression.

  13. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    GQ has an obit for Bourdain, calling him the most interesting man in the world. (A nod to the beer ad, obviously.)
    https://www.gq.com/story/rip-anthony-bourdain

  14. Mister Bluster says:

    depression, which,..he’d tried to combat with alcohol.

    This NEVER works.

  15. Modulo Myself says:

    It was very hard not to think of Anthony Bourdain as a man who had survived his own darkness. Real mindfulness emanated from him on his show and in his writing. He was, I think, a model for those of us who have gone too close the edge but didn’t want to give up our curiosities and selves. It’s devastating, absolutely devastating.

  16. Stormy Dragon says:

    @CSK:

    It gives me no pleasure to say this, but writers–and Bourdain was a good one–are more likely than most to suffer from depression.

    There’s been numerous studies showing that people suffering depression tend to be better at various forms of contingency rating then non-depressed people. One interpretation of the results is “depressive realism”, the idea that happiness depends, to some degree, on being delusional and that depressed people are the portion of society that sees the world as it really is.

    Since writers spend a lot of time thinking about how society works, it’s not surprising they are more likely to end up in that category than most.

  17. James Pearce says:

    @michael reynolds:

    getting right up to the edge of it, feeling its gravitational pull, was enough to scare me.

    A few years ago, when the darkness really took hold of me, the thought of suicide didn’t scare me. It comforted me.

    And that scared the crap out of me.

    I had to read some Camus to get over it. “The struggle itself is enough to fill a man’s heart.”

  18. Ben Wolf says:

    @Kathy: I didn’t indict a social class.

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  19. Not the IT Dept. says:

    God damn it.

  20. Mikey says:

    I’m crushed. I can’t even put it into words. I don’t even know why.

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: That was a good piece, thanks.

  21. teve tory says:

    Mister Bluster says:
    Friday, June 8, 2018 at 12:37
    depression, which,..he’d tried to combat with alcohol.

    This NEVER works.

    It sure worked for a while. Then one day I woke up and realized I’d missed my entire 30’s.

    (don’t worry about me, I’m better now).