chef, author and media personality anthony bourdain died june 8 photo courtesy cnn press room

St. Louis chefs remember Anthony Bourdain, dead at 61

Chef, author and media personality Anthony Bourdain died today, June 8. According to CNN, the 61-year-old was found unresponsive in his hotel room in Paris, where he was filming an upcoming episode of his CNN show “Parts Unknown.” The network reported Bourdain died by suicide.

Bourdain burst on the culinary scene in 1999 with his book, “Kitchen Confidential.” Its success propelled the middle-aged journeyman cook and chef to overnight fame and led to Bourdain hosting an array of food-focused travel shows, including “A Cook’s Tour,” “No Reservations” and “Parts Unknown.” He also penned several more books and participated in numerous culinary projects and collaborations.

Guerrilla Street Food chef and co-owner Brian Hardesty said Bourdain’s years in the kitchen connected with members of the food service industry, who felt he gave voice and validation to their chosen profession.

“Like most chefs, I was kind of raised on his books. He had so many perspectives on the world and on food and was so much himself all of the time,” Hardesty said. “That’s probably his biggest influence on me – just trying not to be a fake person.”

Kevin Nashan, chef-owner of Sidney Street Cafe and Peacemaker Lobster & Crab Co., said Bourdain’s work influenced countless culinary careers.

“There are people in life that have the influence, passion and leadership to help shape many culinary careers, both with the pen and the knife,” Nashan said via text message. “Anthony Bourdain was one of these people. Thank you for everything, and you will be missed.”

Mai Lee and Nudo House chef and co-owner Qui Tran said Bourdain’s work also put a spotlight on the vibrant, often grueling nature of the industry.

“I loved Anthony Bourdain. He was amazing. As a young kid, I spent so much of my time working in the kitchen. It was tough, but he helped me to realize that it was cool to be a cook,” Tran said. “He brought an awareness to the industry. He helped bring people together through food, and he’ll definitely be missed.”

Vista Ramen chef-owner Chris Bork said Bourdain was a champion of the culinary profession.

“I can’t think of someone who gave insight and championed what we do more than Anthony Bourdain. I think every cook worth anything should or has read ‘Kitchen Confidential,’” Bork said. “I don’t really get affected by celebrities dying, but this one definitely makes me feel a certain way.”

Niche Food Group chef-owner Gerard Craft said Bourdain's influence resonated with him, as his career took off around the time “Kitchen Confidential” was published. He said he hoped the nature of Bourdain’s death will bring awareness to the issue of mental health.

“People say ‘How could he do that?’ But anxiety and depression are powerful. When you’re in it, you don’t see it,” Craft said. “It’s something so real in some of our lives, especially in our industry, where depression and anxiety are everywhere. Many of us are the depressed, loner punk-rock kids who sat alone in the corner at the dance. It felt a little too real this morning. I hope in this tragedy, maybe part of his legacy is people talk about this more.”

Sauce founder and publisher Allyson Mace echoed Craft’s sentiment. "I don’t think humanity gets the sensitivity that creators possess. Yes, they make huge strides in creation, but as high as they soar, their internal stories are just as deep,” Mace said. "We will never understand suicide, but we can do better for those who struggle with mental health on a national and local level. My heart goes out to the family and friends of those we have lost to this terrible disease.”

Mace called Bourdain a leader in the culinary community. “Tony’s wanderlust was a gift to humanity. He was a rebel and a risk taker, a rock star,” she said. “RIP Tony – you are a legend to whom we owe our hearts and dreams.”

How to Get Help // If you or someone you know is considering suicide, contact The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800.273.TALK (8255) or the Crisis Text Line by texting 741741.

Matt Sorrell is staff writer at Sauce Magazine. 

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