New York (AFP) – Anthony Bourdain, the American celebrity chef and author whose popular television shows explored the diversity of the world’s food and cultures, has committed suicide at the age of 61.
Bourdain was found dead in his hotel room in France, where he was filming an episode of his Emmy-winning CNN program “Parts Unknown,” the network said Friday.
French authorities said that Bourdain had died by hanging at a luxury hotel, the Chambard, in the village of Kaysersberg in the Haut-Rhin region of Alsace.
“At this stage, we have no reason to suspect foul play,” prosecutor Christian de Rocquigny du Fayel said.
CNN said Bourdain’s body was found by his close friend Eric Ripert, the French executive chef of New York restaurant Le Bernardin.
“His love of great adventure, new friends, fine food and drink and the remarkable stories of the world made him a unique storyteller,” the network said in a statement.
“His talents never ceased to amaze us and we will miss him very much.”
Bourdain’s sudden death drew tributes from around the world, including from US President Donald Trump, who described it as “very sad” and “very shocking.”
“He was quite a character,” Trump said.
Celebrity chefs Jose Andres and Gordon Ramsay paid tribute on Twitter.
“You still had so many places to show us, whispering to our souls the great possibilities beyond what we could see with our own eyes,” Andres said.
“Stunned and saddened by the loss of Anthony Bourdain,” said Ramsay. “He brought the world into our homes and inspired so many people to explore cultures and cities through their food.”
– ‘What do you eat?’ –
A gifted storyteller, Bourdain promoted haute cuisine and street food alike in his travels, passionately encouraging viewers to “eat and drink with people without fear and prejudice.”
“We ask very simple questions: What makes you happy? What do you eat? What do you like to cook?” Bourdain said in 2014 in an acceptance speech for a Peabody Award, a prestigious honor for US media.
“And everywhere in the world, we go and ask these simple questions. We tend to get really astonishing answers.”
After a start washing dishes in a restaurant, the New York-born Bourdain gradually rose through the ranks to become a chef.
His 2000 memoir, “Kitchen Confidential,” kicked off his celebrity career and led him to become a television host, starting with “A Cook’s Tour” on the Food Network.
He went on to host a show called “No Reservations” on the Travel Channel before moving to CNN with “Parts Unknown.”
On CNN, anchors struggled to hold back tears Friday as they reminisced about their late colleague and urged people faced with despair or who know people struggling with depression to call a suicide hotline.
CNN anchor John Berman remembered Bourdain as a “human contradiction.”
“He loved food. He wrote about food. He lived food. He thought we obsessed about food too much,” Berman said.
“He once said to me, ‘I wish people would stop taking pictures of food and have more sex.’ You know, because what he really wanted to do was to show people life.”
Bourdain rhapsodized about the joys of food and drink but was candid about his struggles with own demons, including alcohol and drug abuse and depression.
Bourdain leaves behind a teenage daughter Ariane, from his relationship with his ex-wife Ottavia Busia.
He had been dating Italian actress Asia Argento since 2017 and he became an outspoken advocate for the #MeToo movement after she revealed she had been sexually assaulted by movie producer Harvey Weinstein.
“I came out of a brutal, oppressive business that was historically unfriendly to women,” Bourdain said in an interview in January with “The Daily Show.”
“I knew a lot of women, it turned out, who had stories about their experience, about people I knew,” he said.
Bourdain’s death comes just days after the suicide of another celebrity, designer Kate Spade.
“Success does not protect you from depression. It doesn’t protect you from suicide,” Jodi Gold, director of the Gold Center for Mind Health and Wellness, said on CNN.