Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain
Bourdain in May 2014
Born Anthony Michael Bourdain
(1956-06-25) June 25, 1956
New York City, New York, U.S.
Education Vassar College
Culinary Institute of America
Spouse(s) Nancy Putkoski (1980s–2000s)
Ottavia Busia (m. 2007)
Culinary career
Cooking style French

Anthony Michael Bourdain (born June 25, 1956) is an American chef, author, and television personality. He is a 1978 graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and a veteran of numerous professional kitchens, including many years as executive chef at Brasserie Les Halles. Though Bourdain is no longer formally employed as a chef, he maintains a relationship with Les Halles in New York. He is widely known for his 2000 book Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, and in 2005 he began hosting the Travel Channel's culinary and cultural adventure programs Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations and The Layover. In 2013, he joined CNN to host Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown.


  • Early life and family 1
  • Culinary training and career 2
  • Media career 3
    • Writing 3.1
    • Television 3.2
      • A Cook's Tour and No Reservations 3.2.1
      • Top Chef and other guest appearances 3.2.2
        • Food programs
        • Other series and animation
      • The Layover and Parts Unknown 3.2.3
    • Publishing 3.3
  • Public persona 4
  • Interests and advocacy 5
  • Personal life 6
  • Awards and nominations 7
  • Bibliography 8
  • References 9
  • Sources 10
  • External links 11

Early life and family

Anthony Bourdain was born in New York City, and grew up in Leonia, New Jersey.[1][2] His parents were Pierre Bourdain (d. 1987), a classical music industry executive for Columbia Records,[3][4] and Gladys Bourdain (née Sacksman),[5][6][7][8] a staff editor for The New York Times.[9]

Bourdain has said he was raised without religion, and that his ancestors were Catholic on his father's side and Jewish on his mother's side.[10] His paternal grandparents were French: his paternal grandfather emigrated from Arcachon to New York following World War I, and his father grew up speaking French and spent many summers in France.[11] Bourdain also traces his roots, in various parts, to Europe, more broadly Austria, Spain and Gibraltar, and Ukraine, and to South America (Brazil, Uruguay, and Paraguay).[12]

Culinary training and career

Bourdain reflected that his love of food was kindled in France, when he tried his first oyster on an oyster fisherman's boat as a youth, while on a family vacation.[13] Bourdain graduated from the Dwight-Englewood School in 1973.[1] He attended Vassar College, dropping out after two years,[14] and at the same time working in Provincetown, Massachusetts seafood restaurants, which sparked his decision to pursue cooking as a career.[15]

Bourdain went on to attend the Culinary Institute of America, graduating in 1978.[16][17]

From there he went on to run various restaurant kitchens in New York City—including the Supper Club,[18] One Fifth Avenue,[18] and Sullivan's.[18] In 1998 he became executive chef at Brasserie Les Halles, based in Manhattan with additional locations at the time in Miami, Washington, D.C., and Tokyo, Japan.[18] He remained executive chef there for many years.

Though Bourdain is no longer formally employed at Brasserie Les Halles, he maintains a relationship with the restaurant, where he was described as recently as January 2014 as their "chef-at-large".[19]

Media career


Bourdain's New York Times bestselling book Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly was an outgrowth of his article in The New Yorker called "Don't Eat Before Reading This."[20]

Bourdain subsequently wrote two more New York Times bestselling nonfiction books: A Cook's Tour (2001),[21] an account of his food and travel exploits across the world, written in conjunction with his first television series of the same title,[21] and The Nasty Bits (2006), another collection of essays mainly centered on food.[22] Bourdain's additional books include Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook,[18] the culinary mysteries Bone in the Throat[18] and Gone Bamboo,[18] a hypothetical historical investigation, Typhoid Mary: An Urban Historical,[23] and No Reservations: Around the World on an Empty Stomach.[24] His book, Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook, the sequel to Kitchen Confidential, was published in 2010.[22]

Bourdain's articles and essays have appeared in many places, including in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Times, Los Angeles Times, The Observer, Gourmet, Maxim, Esquire (UK), Scotland on Sunday, The Face, Food Arts, Limb by Limb, BlackBook, The Independent, Best Life, the Financial Times, and Town & Country. On the Internet, Bourdain's blog for Season 3 of Top Chef[25] was nominated for a Webby Award for best Blog – Cultural/Personal in 2008.[26] In 2012, Bourdain co-wrote the original graphic novel Get Jiro! for DC Comics/Vertigo along with Joel Rose, with art by Langdon Foss.[27][28]


A Cook's Tour and No Reservations

The acclaim surrounding Bourdain's memoir, Kitchen Confidential, led to an offer by the Food Network to host his own food and world-travel show, A Cook's Tour, which premiered in January 2002. In July 2005, he premiered a new, somewhat similar television series, Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, on the Travel Channel. As a further result of the immense popularity of Kitchen Confidential, the Fox sitcom Kitchen Confidential aired in 2005, in which the character "Jack Bourdain" is based loosely on the biography and persona of Anthony Bourdain.

In July 2006, Bourdain was in Beirut filming an episode of No Reservations when the Israel-Lebanon conflict broke out.[29] The unexpected conflict broke out after the crew had filmed only a few hours of footage for the food and travel show. Bourdain's producers compiled behind-the-scenes footage of Bourdain and his production staff, including not only their initial attempts to film the episode, but also their firsthand encounters with Hezbollah supporters, their days of waiting for news with other expatriates in a Beirut hotel, and their eventual escape aided by a "fixer" (unseen in the footage), whom Bourdain dubbed "Mr. Wolf" after Harvey Keitel's character in Pulp Fiction. Bourdain and his crew were finally evacuated with other American citizens, on the morning of July 20, by the United States Marines. The Beirut No Reservations episode, which aired on August 21, 2006, was nominated for an Emmy Award in 2007.[30]

Top Chef and other guest appearances

Food programs

Bourdain has appeared five times as guest judge on Bravo's Top Chef reality cooking competition program: first in the November 2006 "Thanksgiving" episode of Season 2, and then again in June 2007 in the first episode of Season 3, judging the "exotic surf and turf" competition featuring ingredients including abalone, alligator, black chicken, geoduck and eel. His third appearance was also in Season 3, as an expert on air travel, judging the competitors' airplane meals. Bourdain also wrote weekly blog commentaries for many of the Season 3 episodes, filling in as a guest blogger while Top Chef judge Tom Colicchio was busy opening a new restaurant. Bourdain next appeared as a guest judge for the opening episode of Season 4, in which pairs of chefs competed head-to-head in the preparation of various classic dishes, and again in the Season 4 Restaurant Wars episode, temporarily taking the place of head judge Tom Colicchio, who was at a charity event. He is also one of the main judges on Top Chef All-Stars (Top Chef, Season 8).

Bourdain made a guest appearance on the August 6, 2007 New York City episode of Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern, and Andrew Zimmern appeared as a guest on the New York City episode of Bourdain's No Reservations airing the same day. On October 20, 2008 Bourdain hosted a special, At the Table with Anthony Bourdain, on the Travel Channel. In 2013 he appeared as a judge and mentor in ABC's cooking competition show, The Taste.[31]

Other series and animation

Bourdain appeared in an episode of TLC's reality show Miami Ink, which aired August 28, 2006. Artist Chris Garver tattooed a skull on Bourdain's right shoulder. Bourdain, who noted it was his fourth tattoo, said that one reason for the skull was that he wished to balance the ouroboros tattoo he had inked on his opposite shoulder in Malaysia, while filming Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations. Bourdain also has a brief cameo appearance in the 2008 movie Far Cry,[32] the filming of which was included in the Vancouver episode of No Reservations. He is also a consultant and writer for the HBO series Treme.[33][34]

In 2010, Bourdain appeared on Nick, Jr.'s Yo Gabba Gabba! as Dr. Tony. In 2011 he voiced himself in a cameo on an episode of The Simpsons entitled "The Food Wife", in which Marge, Lisa, and Bart start a food blog called "The Three Mouthkateers".[35] In 2013 Bourdain appeared in FX's animated show Archer voicing chef Lance Casteau, a parody of Bourdain and other aggressive chef personalities.

The Layover and Parts Unknown

Travel Channel announced in July 2011 that it would be adding a second one-hour ten-episode Bourdain show to be titled The Layover, which premiered November 21, 2011.[36] Each episode features an exploration of a city that can be undertaken within an air travel layover of 24 to 48 hours.

In May 2012, Bourdain announced that he would be leaving the Travel Channel to host a show titled Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown for CNN, focusing on other cuisines and cultures; the new show premiered April 14, 2013.[37]


Ecco Press, a division of HarperCollins, announced in September 2011 that Bourdain would have his own publishing line, which would include acquiring three to five titles per year that "reflect his remarkably eclectic tastes".[38] The first books that the imprint published, released in 2013, include L.A. Son: My Life, My City, My Food by Roy Choi, Tien Nguyen, and Natasha Phan,[39] Prophets of Smoked Meat by Daniel Vaughn, and Fight Shark by Mark Miller.[40] Bourdain has also announced plans to publish a book by Marilyn Hagerty.[41]

In describing the line, Bourdain said, "This will be a line of books for people with strong voices who are good at something – who speak with authority. Discern nothing from this initial list – other than a general affection for people who cook food and like food. The ability to kick people in the head is just as compelling to us – as long as that's coupled with an ability to vividly describe the experience. We are just as intent on crossing genres as we are enthusiastic about our first three authors. It only gets weirder from here."[42]

Public persona

Bourdain in 2007

Bourdain has a public persona that has been characterized by Gothamist as "culinary bad boy".[43] Because of his liberal use of profanity and sexual references in his television show No Reservations, the network has placed viewer discretion advisories on each segment of each episode.

Known for consuming exotic local specialty dishes, the Daily Freeman reported Bourdain has "eaten sheep testicles in Morocco,[44] ant eggs in Puebla, Mexico,[44] a raw seal eyeball as part of a traditional Inuit seal hunt,[44] and an entire cobra—beating heart, blood, bile, and meat—in Vietnam."[44] According to Bourdain, the most disgusting thing he has ever eaten is a Chicken McNugget,[45] though he has also declared that the unwashed warthog rectum he ate in Namibia and the fermented shark he ate in Iceland are among "the worst meals of [his] life."

He has been known for being an unrepentant drinker and smoker. In a nod to Bourdain's (at the time) two-pack-a-day cigarette habit, renowned chef Thomas Keller once served him a 20-course tasting menu which included a mid-meal "coffee and cigarette": a coffee custard infused with tobacco, together with a foie gras mousse.[46] Bourdain stopped cigarette smoking in the summer of 2007 because of the birth of his daughter.[47] He is also a former user of cocaine, heroin, and LSD. In Kitchen Confidential he writes of his experience in a trendy SoHo restaurant in 1981: "We were high all the time, sneaking off to the walk-in refrigerator at every opportunity to 'conceptualize.' Hardly a decision was made without drugs. Cannabis, methaqualone, cocaine, LSD, psilocybin mushrooms soaked in honey and used to sweeten tea, secobarbital, tuinal, amphetamine, codeine and, increasingly, heroin, which we'd send a Spanish-speaking busboy over to Alphabet City to get."[48] In the same book, Bourdain frankly describes his former addiction, including how he once resorted to selling his record collection on the street in order to raise enough money to purchase drugs.[49]

Bourdain is also noted for his put-downs of celebrity chefs, such as Paula Deen, Bobby Flay, Guy Fieri, Sandra Lee, and Rachael Ray,[50][51] and appears to be irritated by both the overt commercialism of the celebrity cooking industry and its lack of culinary authenticity. He has voiced a "serious disdain for food demigods like Alan Richman, Alice Waters, and Alain Ducasse."[52] Bourdain has recognized the irony of his transformation into a celebrity chef and has, to some extent, begun to qualify his insults; in the 2007 New Orleans episode of No Reservations, he reconciled with Emeril Lagasse. He has been consistently outspoken in his praise for chefs he admires, particularly Ferran Adrià, Juan Mari Arzak, Mario Batali, Fergus Henderson, José Andrés, Thomas Keller, Martin Picard, Eric Ripert, and Marco Pierre White,[53] as well as his former protegé and colleagues at Brasserie Les Halles. Bourdain has also spoken very highly of Julia Child, saying that she "influenced the way I grew up and my entire value system."[54]

Bourdain is also known for his sarcastic comments about vegan and vegetarian activists, saying that their lifestyle is rude to the inhabitants of many countries he visits. Bourdain says he considers vegetarianism, except in the case of religious strictures as in India, a "First World luxury."[55] He has clarified that he believes Americans eat too much meat, and admires vegetarians who allow themselves to put aside their vegetarianism when they travel in order to be respectful of their hosts.[52]

Bourdain's book, The Nasty Bits, is dedicated to "Joey, Johnny, and Dee Dee" of the Ramones. Bourdain has declared fond appreciation for their music, as well that of other early punk bands such as The Ramones, Dead Boys, and The Voidoids.[56] Bourdain has said that the playing of music by Billy Joel, Elton John or Grateful Dead in his kitchen was grounds for firing.[56] Billy Joel, however, is a fan of Bourdain's and has subsequently visited the restaurant.[57] In the 2006 No Reservations episode in Sweden, Bourdain proclaimed that his all-time favorite album (his "desert island disc") is the groundbreaking punk record Fun House by The Stooges; and he made it clear that he despises the Swedish pop group ABBA. On his 2007 No Reservations Holiday Special episode, the rock band Queens of the Stone Age were the featured dinner guests, adding food-inspired holiday songs to the episode's soundtrack.

Interests and advocacy

Bourdain is an advocate for communicating the value and tastiness of traditional or "peasant" foods, including specifically all of the varietal bits and unused animal parts not usually eaten by affluent, 21st-century U.S. citizens.[58] Bourdain has also consistently noted and championed the high quality and deliciousness of freshly prepared street food in other countries — especially developing countries — as compared to fast food chains in the U.S.[59]

Bourdain often acknowledges and champions industrious Spanish-speaking immigrants—from Mexico, Ecuador, etc.—who are cooks and chefs in many U.S. restaurants, including upscale restaurants, regardless of cuisine.[60][61] Bourdain considers them to be talented chefs and invaluable cooks, underpaid and unrecognized even though they have become the backbone of the U.S. restaurant industry.[62][63]

Personal life

Bourdain married his high-school girlfriend, Nancy Putkoski, in the 1980s, and they remained together for two decades before divorcing; Bourdain has cited the inevitable changes that come from traveling widely as the cause of the split.[64] On April 20, 2007 he married Ottavia Busia. Together, they have a daughter, Ariane, born in 2007.[65] Busia has appeared in several episodes of No Reservations—notably the ones in Sardinia (her birthplace), Tuscany (in which she plays a disgruntled Italian diner), Rome, Rio, and Naples. In August 2015, Bourdain received a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.[66]

Awards and nominations

Bourdain with his Peabody Award in 2014



  • Typhoid Mary: An Urban Historical. New York: Bloomsbury. 2001.  
  • Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook. Bloomsbury. 2004.  


  • Bone in the Throat. New York: Villard Books. 1995.  
  • Gone Bamboo. New York: Villard Books. 1997.  
  • Bobby Gold. Edinburgh: Canongate Crime. 2001.  
  • Get Jiro!. with Joe Rose and Langdon Foss  


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  60. ^ Bourdain, Anthony (2000).  
  61. ^ Master chef Douglas Rodriguez, on the July 8, 2009 episode of Top Chef Masters, stated that 60% of restaurant kitchen workers in the U.S. are Latinos.
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  • Bourdain, Anthony (2000). Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly. New York: Bloomsbury.  
  • Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary UnderbellyBourdain, Anthony. , Updated ed., New York: Harper Perennial (January 9, 2007).
  • Bourdain's biography on

External links

  • Anthony Bourdain official Travel Channel website
  • Anthony Bourdain at the Internet Movie Database
  • Anthony Bourdain at the Chef and Restaurant Database
  • One-hour video interview on YouTube from Authors@Google (2007)