How Rock Music Shaped ‘Bad Boy’ Chef Anthony Bourdain
Anthony Bourdain — author, travel program host and onetime chef — was found dead in a hotel room in France of an apparent suicide by hanging. The man the Smithsonian Institution called "the original rock star" of the culinary world and "the Elvis of bad boy chefs" was 61 years old.
Bourdain’s connections to music ran deep. He graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in 1978, getting his first work as a cook in New York City just as punk rock was reaching its apex. He was already well acquainted with the music, having embraced the sound and fury of the Stooges, the Ramones and the Dead Boys earlier in the ‘70s, in opposition to the softer sounds the decade had to offer.
In a post he wrote on CNN’s website, Bourdain recalled, “The Stooges' first album, an antisocial masterpiece of do-it-yourself aggression and raw, nasty, dirty rock 'n' roll, came as a welcome emetic. A friend played it for me at his house with the volume down, careful, as we both sensed this stuff was dangerous.”
He would interview Stooges’ frontman Iggy Pop on his CNN program Parts Unknown, and he later recalled their conversation. “Of all the people I've met, I've never been more intimidated, more anxious, more starstruck than when I met Iggy Pop,” Bourdain said.
Bourdain’s travel programs (Parts Unknown on CNN, as well as A Cook’s Tour on Food Network and No Reservations on Travel Channel) often featured musicians he loved or in which he had interest.
He visited Cleveland in 2007 for No Reservations and treated Ramones drummer Marky Ramone to a tapas dinner at chef Michael Symon’s restaurant. In a 2016 episode of Parts Unknown, Bourdain traveled to Nashville to hang out at Third Man Records and visit with Kills singer Alison Mosshart and her drummer in the Dead Weather, Jack White. Bourdain’s No Reservations holiday special in 2007 featured music by Queens of the Stone Age, who would later appear in a 2011 episode. QOTSA’s Josh Homme and ex-Screaming Trees singer Mark Lanegan were responsible for Parts Unknown’s theme song.
There were more musical guests. Bourdain dined on Texas barbecue with Ted Nugent in a 2008 episode of No Reservations, then went back to Nugent’s ranch to help cook dinner for wounded vets. In the same episode, he visited a restaurant owned by Alice Cooper and talked baseball and fatherhood.
Outside the confines of his rather confine-free television work, Bourdain’s tastes in music were rather eclectic. He curated a Spotify playlist of music from the ‘70s for CNN that featured everything from the Stooges, Lou Reed, the New York Dolls and the Heartbreakers to Sly & the Family Stone and Marvin Gaye. He also gave Rolling Stone a list of his favorite songs, which included Gaye, the Heartbreakers and the Dolls, but also Curtis Mayfield and the Brian Jonestown Massacre.
Several musicians and other celebrities posted condolences in the wake of his death.
Bourdain is survived by his 11-year-old daughter, Ariane, and his mother, Gladys.
If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for a list of additional resources.