Bourdain’s profile began to soar in 1999, when the New Yorker magazine published his article Don’t Eat Before Reading This, which he developed into the 2000 book, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly.
He went on to host television programs, first on the Food Network and the Travel Channel, before joining CNN in 2013. Bourdain’s Parts Unknown seemed like an odd choice for CNN when it started in 2013 — part travelogue, part history lesson, part love letter to exotic foods.
Each trip was an adventure. There had been nothing quite like it on the staid news network, and it became an immediate hit.
He mixed a coarseness and whimsical sense of adventurousness, true to the rock ‘n’ roll music he loved.
“We are constantly asking ourselves, first and foremost, what is the most [messed] up thing we can do next week?” he said in a 2014 interview with The Associated Press.
Besides showcasing food, a Parts Unknown trip to Japan in the series’ first season included an odd show with robots and scantily clad women, a visit with a death metal band and a meal shared with a woman involved in the city’s sadomachistic community.
He also saw areas of conflict and intense poverty, including a 2011 trip to Haiti after the devastating earthquake.
“I’m there talking about local cuisine, and that means I’m shovelling food into my face … that a lot of these people can’t afford,” he said.
He described how his well-meaning efforts to feed locals around him led to chaos and “hungry kids being beaten with a stick”.
In 2016, he sat down with with then president Barack Obama in Hanoi, Vietnam. The two ate bún chả, a dish of rice noodles with pork, broth and greens, and washed it down with beer while chatting about everything from Obama’s childhood in Hawaii and Indonesia, to whether ketchup should go on hot dogs.
The restaurant — Bun Cha Huong Lien — felt so honoured by their visit they had the table, stools and (washed) crockery framed.
Co-owner Nguyen Thi Lien also created a “Combo Obama” which includes everything the former president ate.
Former President Barack Obama on Friday fondly remembered CNN host and chef Anthony Bourdain, posting a photo of the two sharing a meal as part of a 2016 episode of Bourdain’s show “Parts Unknown” coinciding with the then-president’s first trip to Vietnam. “He taught us about food — but more importantly, about its ability to bring us together. To make us a little less afraid of the unknown. We’ll miss him,” Obama wrote on Twitter, accompanying the photo, taken by his White House photographer Pete Souza.
Obama’s appearance with Bourdain was one of the many ways he sought to reach new audiences through pop culture and media during his presidency.
(Here ‘s a great video of Bourdain teaches Obama the art of the noodle slurp:)
Souza also honored Bourdain on Friday, remembering the “energy being in his presence.”
“What can I tell you about what it’s like to sit across from the President of the United States and drink beer from the bottle?” Bourdain wrote about the episode in 2016. “I will sure as shit remember this trip to Vietnam. Not very long ago at all, I was a 44-year-old guy still dunking French fries with no hope of ever seeing Rome, much less Hanoi ― much less EVER sitting across from the President of the United States, talking about hot dogs.”
The chef, author and television personality was born in New York City and was raised in Leonia, New Jersey. He had written that his love of food began as a youth while on a family vacation in France, when he ate his first oyster. Bourdain also mentioned his youth was punctuated by drug use and he dropped out of Vassar College after two years. Working in restaurants led him to the Culinary Institute of America, where he graduated in 1978, and began working in kitchens in New York City. He became executive chef at Brasserie Les Halles in 1998.
Anthony Bourdain, the gifted chef, storyteller and writer who took TV viewers around the world to explore culture, cuisine and the human condition for nearly two decades, has died on the 8th of June, 2018. He was 61. You will be missed.