It is not surprising to hear someone talk about Anthony as one of the most respected and popular chefs in the world today. From his books, to his television show, Anthony has received several awards and recognitions that serve as evidence of his remarkable talent and love for food. His show has won two Creative Arts Emmy Awards for Outstanding Cinematography for Nonfiction Programming, as well as a Critics’ Choice Award for the Best Reality Series. Anthony himself has been honored several times in numerous food and travel magazines in recognition for his contributions in the modern food and travel industry.
A Chef with No Reservations
If there is one word that we can say about Anthony that truly makes him extraordinary, it is the word “bold.” A lot of us have this desire and willingness to travel and explore the world, but there is this apprehension and fear of the unknown that hold us back from travelling. This is why Anthony is such a remarkable individual. He is able to take control of that fear and not let that apprehension stop him from exploring the beauty beyond his borders. He does not let the risk of being lost and disoriented prevent him from moving through the deep waters of new cultures and new food.
In an interview where Anthony was asked for an advice he could give to potential travelers, he simply said:
“All I can say is, do anything to get yourself into that position of being lost and letting things… like eating, travel should be largely submissive. Let things happen to you, good things and bad things. It’s almost invariably rewarding. Being lost and disoriented is good. Learning little things. That first random act of kindness from a stranger offering you food or showing you where to go or telling you about a really great bar, those have been the most wonderful moments of my life.”
Another trait that Anthony possesses that makes him a truly amazing person is his attitude of “being himself.” Whether on screen or backstage, Anthony never puts up a front or another personality. He always acts the way he really is, which is why a lot of people love watching him in his shows. In an interview, Anthony relates how doing television shows all throughout these years has not changed his personality:
“My persona hasn't changed at all. I am the same person I was. Look, I never had to behave for the camera. I've been really fortunate in that I guess I was hired to do A Cook's Tour. I didn't know how to make television, I didn't understand the process at all when I went out on A Cook's Tour but I learned along with the camera people on that show. So we grew up together. I don't know that I know how to make normal television, but I know how to work with the people I have been working with, whatever it is that we have been doing I think that we get better at it every year.”
Food has always been fascinating to Anthony, and he spares no time in trying out what the world can offer the best he can. His curiosity has become one of his greatest strengths; it is because of his boldness to try something new that he is able to bring us into an experience of seeing the world beyond our own borders. Anthony often says in interviews:
“I admire vegetarians who refuse to eat anything but vegetables in their homes or communities, but I also admire those who put aside those principles or preferences when they travel. I consider one of my few virtues—I don't have a lot of them—but one of them would be a deep sense of curiosity. It's inconceivable why anyone would want to not experience as many colors in the spectrum as possible with our limited time on Earth.”
Anthony Bourdain was born in 1956 in New York City, the son of Pierre and Gladys Bourdain. His grandparents on his father’s side were of French descent; they emigrated from France after the First World War to seek a new life in the United States. Gladys, Anthony’s mother, worked as a staff editor for The New York Times, while his father Pierre was in the classical music recording industry.
It never occurred to Anthony when he was young that he would later become a world-renowned chef who would travel around the world and revolutionize the way people saw food. Food was not that much of an issue in the Bourdain family, and there were no chefs in his family line that Anthony was aware of. Anthony did, however, exhibit a bit of adventure in food when he went with his family to France and became the first one in his family to eat raw oyster.
Anthony recalled his childhood years in an interview when he was asked what kind of an eater he was:
“I wasn't terribly adventurous, but my parents made an effort to bring me into the city every few weeks to eat relatively adventurously for the time and mix it up. We took delight eating Chinese and fine Japanese, which was really in its infancy then in New York. It was a little bit of a Julia Child family — not particularly foodie, but aspirational. I was the first in the family to eat a raw oyster. That was about as adventurous as it got.”
It would be years before Anthony would finally develop his own passion and meticulous attitude for the food that touched his lips, but this interest in tasting something raw grew with age. In many of his interviews, Anthony agreed that while he did not see himself becoming a cook, he did acknowledge that compared to his classmates and friends, he had a very different approach to food. He said in an interview:
“I never thought of myself as someone destined to become a cook or to focus on food. But looking back, in retrospect, I can see that I was a little more concerned with food than a lot of my friends.”
Born to be in the Kitchen
After graduating from the Englewood School for Boys in 1973 and completing his high school studies, Anthony enrolled at Vassar College. During his time in this school, Anthony started to work part-time in local seafood restaurants in Massachusetts, an experience that was significant in his decision later on to start a career in the culinary industry. And so, two years after he started studying, Anthony dropped out of school to focus on his interest.
Anthony then studied at the Culinary Institute of America to further enhance his cooking skills. While there, Anthony was often hailed as one of the best students due to his talent for making food. Anthony graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in 1978 with high remarks.
Not long after he left school, Anthony immediately found work in local New York restaurants due to his amazing personality and talent for cooking. In few years’ time, Anthony worked his way up the ladder, eventually running the kitchens of various popular restaurants in New York such as Sullivan’s, the One Fifth Avenue and the Supper Club. In 1998, Anthony became the executive chef at Brasserie Les Halles, a well-known restaurant that has locations in Washington D.C., Miami and Japan.
The Chef Writes Books about Restaurants
Anthony’s popularity as a writer became very clear in 1997 when the New Yorker (a famous newspaper company) published an article he made about the inner workings of restaurants, more specifically the kitchens, titled “Don’t Eat Before Reading This.” By this time, Anthony already had built for himself a reputation as one of the most respected and credible chefs in New York, and so the article was met with much praise, causing Anthony to work on other articles.
In 2000, Anthony finished writing and published his first book entitled “Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly” a broader take on his 1997 article about restaurants and their kitchens. Within a few weeks of its release, Kitchen Confidential became a New York Times bestseller, garnering numerous praises from critics and selling more books than Anthony ever imagined. The success of Kitchen Confidential was followed by Anthony’s second book titled “A Cook’s Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisines,” which contains an account of food beyond what Americans knew, as well as Anthony’s travels around the world. Released in 2001, A Cook’s Tour also became a critical and financial success, and stayed on the New York Times bestseller for the months that followed.
Moving Over To Television
With the success he attained from his book “A Cook’s Tour,” Anthony now ventured over to the television industry and adapted the title of his second book. As there were not much shows about food and travel back then, Anthony was in a way experimenting on how his show would work. Contrary to what some expected though, A Cook’s Tour became very popular and rated among the top shows of the Travel Channel and the Food Network.
In 2005, Anthony ended A Cook’s Tour and began a new television show that somehow acted as its sequel. This show, titled “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations,” saw Anthony travelling in various parts of the world, meeting with hosts who introduced him to that place’s culture and cuisine. From its first airing, No Reservations became so popular worldwide that it lasted for nine seasons and taped over one hundred forty episodes, and won a number of awards for having the best cinematography or being the best reality series. It also established Anthony as an amazing television persona, and became a template for other food and travel shows that followed.
One of Anthony’s most memorable moments in his show No Reservations was in July 2006, when they filmed an episode in Beirut. During their stay, the conflict between Israel and Lebanon broke out, and Anthony and his production team became stuck in the city, even meeting several Hezbollah members. Eventually, the team, along with other Americans escaped with the help of a cleaner and were evacuated from the country. The airing of this episode gave No Reservations a nomination for an Emmy Award in 2007, further thrusting Anthony into the spotlight.
In the following years, Anthony not only worked with his own show but also made numerous television appearances, making him a well-known icon in terms of food and travel. He has done shows with other popular chefs such as Tom Colicchio and Andrew Zimmern (Anthony and Andrew made guest appearances on each of their shows in the same day on August 6, 2007), and has appeared as a guest judge for several times in the popular television series “Top Chef.”
In 2012, No Reservations was ended after Anthony signed a contract with CNN to host their new food and travel show entitled “Parts Unknown.” In an interview made with him regarding his new show, Anthony was asked how he viewed a place too dangerous to visit, and he answered:
“I'm not looking to stick my head into fire for its own sake. I'm not looking to report hard news. But if there's a historical obsession like the Congo, a place that I've been fascinated with historically, politically, and culturally for a long time, I will go to some lengths to tell that story. I'm not a danger junkie, but I have a fairly high tolerance for risk if there's something there that I really want to look at.”
Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage
Anthony’s personal life has been a mix of highs and lows, but he is thankful for the people that he met along the way, as they helped shape who he is today. Anthony was married to Nancy Putkoski in 1985, but they separated in 2005 due to some differences. In 2007, Anthony met Italian chef Ottavia Busia, and married her in the same year. Ottavia bore Anthony a daughter named Ariane. The birth of Ariane was significant to Anthony, as it was the main reason why Anthony stopped smoking.
The Journey Continues
Today, Anthony continues to do what he is passionate about—food and travel, and constantly invites us to explore a world that is full of wonder and excitement. Anthony Bourdain’s life is a great inspiration for us to never be afraid of trying something new. In his travels, Anthony shows us that curiosity is a good thing, because it opens us up to all the beauty that this world can show us.
“When you travel everything changes. It is a humbling experience and you see how insignificant you are and how little your world matters to the rest of the world. How much harder people work in the rest of the world, how difficult their lives are and how terrible things can happen to really good people. Those things make an impression. When you walk in another person’s shoes for just a minute it’s a life changing thing.”
Organizations and Programmes Supported
- J/P Hatian Relief Organization
Awards and Achievements
- 2001: Named Food Writer of the Year by Bon Appetite Magazine
- 2002: Awarded Food Book of the Year by the British Guild of Food Writers (A Cook’s Tour)
- 2007: Received the Emmy Award for Outstanding Informational Programming (Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations)
- 2008: Received the Webby Award for Best Blog-Culture/Personal
- 2008: Inducted into the James Beard Foundation’s Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America
- 2009: Received the Creative Arts Emmy Award for Outstanding Cinematography for Nonfiction Programming (Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations)
- 2010: Nominated for a Creative Arts Emmy Award for Non-Fiction Writing
- 2010: Received the CLIO Award
- 2011: Received the Creative Arts Emmy Award for Outstanding Cinematography for Nonfiction Programming (Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations)
- 2012: Received the Critics’ Choice Award for Best Reality Series (Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations)