Celebrated chef, television host, and writer Anthony Bourdain—whose global travels brought an American audience perspectives on the food and political climates of Laos, Africa, the occupied Gaza Strip, and other distant cultures that are rarely depicted on major television networks—has died of apparent suicide at the age of 61.
"We have lost an adventurous traveler who embraced and defended the cultures of the world—and who thought deeply about the issues that challenged nations and regions. I valued his genuine radicalism."
—John Nichols, The Nation
"It is with extraordinary sadness we can confirm the death of our friend and colleague, Anthony Bourdain," CNN, which has aired Bourdain's show "Parts Unknown" since 2013, said in a statement Friday morning. "His love of great adventure, new friends, fine food and drink, and the remarkable stories of the world made him a unique storyteller. His talents never ceased to amaze us and we will miss him very much."
While Bourdain's shows and writings were ostensibly centered on his experience of strange, exotic, and extraordinary food across the globe, he frequently offered incisive and deeply humane political commentary that laid waste to conventional narratives and held the powerful to account for their crimes.
"Once you've been to Cambodia, you'll never stop wanting to beat Henry Kissinger to death with your bare hands," Bourdain wrote in his 2001 book A Cook's Tour: In Search of the Perfect Meal. "You will never again be able to open a newspaper and read about that treacherous, prevaricating, murderous scumbag sitting down for a nice chat with Charlie Rose or attending some black-tie affair for a new glossy magazine without choking... While Henry continues to nibble nori rolls and remaki at A-list parties, Cambodia, the neutral nation he secretly and illegally bombed, invaded, undermined, and then threw to the dogs, is still trying to raise itself up on its one remaining leg."
RIP Anthony Bourdain, a man who was as honest and fearless in his words as he was in his travels. You were a real one. pic.twitter.com/uWU3k4yRkF
— Tom Kludt (@TomKludt) June 8, 2018
Thing about #Bourdain was he didn't look down on foreign places he visited & their ‘quaintness/backwardness/insert-usual-derogatory adjective.' He dived in, hungry to experience. His wasn’t the Orientalist gaze. He saw humanity (& food) everywhere, and connected with it. RIP
— Rania Abouzeid (@Raniaab) June 8, 2018
Anthony @Bourdain is dead at age 61. We have lost an adventurous traveler who embraced and defended the cultures of the world — and who thought deeply about the issues that challenged nations and regions. I valued his genuine radicalism. pic.twitter.com/ofCsalcfVm
— John Nichols (@NicholsUprising) June 8, 2018
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In 2013, Bourdain visited the occupied Gaza Strip and West Bank, and spoke with unique honesty about his experience and expressed dismay at what he witnessed.
After tweeting a photo of dead children on a Gaza beach in 2014 and receiving a flood of "ugly racist sh*t and accusations" in response, Bourdain wrote: "The willingness of people to not see what is plainly apparent, right there, enormous and frankly, hideous. Unfortunately, we live in a world where it's nearly impossible to even describe reality much less deal with it. It's utterly heartbreaking."
Here is Bourdain's 2014 speech accepting an award from the Muslim Public Affairs Council, in which he discusses the inhumane treatment of the Palestinian people:
Asked if he would ever sit down for a meal with President Donald Trump, Bourdain said simply: "I can't see the point, he only talks about himself and he's only interested in himself. I can't see that as being scintillating dinner conversation. Plus he eats his steak well done. I think that really settles it."
This is utterly heartbreaking. Thank you for opening our eyes to parts of the world both cherished and unknown. What a legacy. Sending peace and love to his family. If you or someone you love needs help, please reach out or call 1-800-273-TALK. https://t.co/mkht3wTY5m
— Mandy Moore (@TheMandyMoore) June 8, 2018