Anthony Bourdain The private

Anthony Bourdain The private

Anthony Bourdain The private

Sunday Reading: Remembering Anthony Bourdain Sun, 11 Jul 2021 10:00:00 -0700-The globetrotting chef, author and TV host's death by suicide three years ago was inexplicable to many. A new documentary, "Roadrunner," explores the …


The private Anthony Bourdain

When Anthony Bourdain, the chef, bestselling author and globetrotting TV star, died by suicide three years ago at the age of 61, the news stunned those closest to him.  New York City chef Gabrielle Hamilton was shattered: “I had to go home and lie down on the floor, I mean, actually for kind of weeks,” she said.

Lydia Tenaglia, who produced his hit show “Parts Unknown,” was mystified: “Why would someone who seemingly had the best job in the world, the most incredible life, why would he make a decision to, you know, check out?”

His brother, Christopher Bourdain, struggled with so many other emotions.

Correspondent Jim Axelrod asked, “Did you know he was suffering to that degree?”

“No. I did not know he was suffering to that degree. I miss him terribly, and love him still. And he was so brilliant, and he counted for so many people. And, like, you know, I'm angry at him! Like, why did you do that?”

The globetrotting chef, author and TV host's death by suicide three years ago was inexplicable to many. A new documentary, “Roadrunner,” explores the complexity of the man who seemed to have the world as his oyster. Focus Features

But filmmaker Morgan Neville knew the shock was also shared by legions of Bourdain's fans who never met the man. “I want people to be able to make some sense out of his death,” Neville said.

Axelrod asked, “Do you think there was a little bit of, 'Be careful what you wish for,' in Tony Bourdain's life?”

“Absolutely. The story we're telling is somebody who, in middle age, who has been working as a chef for 25 years, suddenly has world fame, fortune, and the chance to travel the globe. It's everything he always wanted. The question is, what happens when you get everything you always wanted?”

His new documentary, “Roadrunner,” which opens in theaters July 16, is Neville's attempt to answer that question, exploring this complexity elicited by the life and death of Anthony Bourdain.

To watch a trailer for “Roadrunner” click on the video player below:

ROADRUNNER: A Film About Anthony Bourdain – Official Trailer [HD] – In Theaters July 16 by Focus Features on YouTube

Neville said, “I hope the film in some way gets people to start to think of him as a whole person again, to at least process some aspect of his death, but also his life.”

Anyone familiar with the extraordinary trajectory of Bourdain's life, from $800-a-week line cook in sweaty New York City kitchens, to an invitation from a president for dinner in Viet Nam, knows that means examining quite a few dimensions. 

Hamilton, whose restaurant Prune was one of the hottest in pre-pandemic New York City, met Bourdain as his bestseller “Kitchen Confidential” was launching him as a bold-faced name. 

Axelrod asked, “Was Tony a good cook?”

“He would be the first to tell you that that was not his number one strength!” Hamilton replied.

He was a loyal but complicated pal. “It was such a one-way friendship,” she said. Which direction? “He would love you. He would be generous to you.”

Bourdain was quoted in a 2017 New Yorker article as saying, “The kind of care and feeding required of friends, I'm frankly incapable of  … I'm not gonna remember your birthday.”

“Come on, that's very Tony,” Hamilton laughed. “And it's so candid and forthright. So, who cares if it's like, 'I don't remember your birthday'?”

Neville said, “Somebody described him as the nicest a****** they ever met.”

“What do you think they're getting at with that lovely description?” asked Axelrod.

“I think he could be really tough on people, particularly people he worked with, but because he was even tougher on himself.”

This high priest of camaraderie and connection, who built a brand shrinking the world one exotic meal at a time, also spent much of his life staving off loneliness and isolation, cycling through phases and addictions. 

“Sometimes his addictions were good, like jujitsu and exercising, or family,” said Neville. “But sometimes they could be destructive, like cigarette smoking and drinking and even, I would say, workaholism. I think there was even this deeper psychological reason of being static; being home means that you're left alone with your thoughts and, I guess, your demons.”

But as the documentary hauntingly portrays in a clip with one of his heroes, punk rock icon Iggy Pop, the one recipe that seemed to always elude Bourdain – the one for sustained contentment – wasn't actually all that complicated.

Anthony Bourdain, with Iggy Pop, in the documentary “Roadrunner.” Focus Features

Bourdain: “What thrills you?”
Iggy Pop: “This is very embarrassing, but being loved, and actually appreciating the people that are giving that to me.”

Axelrod said, “When he's walking along with Iggy Pop asking him about happiness? It's heartbreaking.” 

“Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Absolutely,” said Christopher Bourdain.

Perhaps saddest for those who miss him most is that he died not really understanding all the lives he touched. Take the wall full of notes left after his suicide at a restaurant where Bourdain once cooked.

Lydia Tenaglia said, “When that outpouring came after his death, and all these people around the world responded in this incredible way, I just wish he could've seen that. Look at the incredible impact that you made in connecting humanity. That, to me, is, like, his really beautiful legacy.”

Notes left for Anthony Bourdain following his death.  CBS News

While the film deals extensively with the circumstances surrounding Bourdain's death – following a break-up with Asia Argento, an Italian actress he'd grown infatuated with, this is a film that examines what happens to legacy when a high-profile life ends by suicide.

Axelrod asked Christopher Bourdain, “What do you think the meaning is for all of these people who still remained devoted to the memory of Tony Bourdain?”

“One of the unfortunate things about somebody who obviously has some kind of tragic part to them is, does that undermine or somehow diminish the message they were trying to get out there? Does it make what he was attempting to show us by going to places like, you know, Libya and the Congo, does it diminish what he was trying to show us and tell us? I don't have an answer. I hope not.”

Morgan Neville has made a reminder of just what that message was: “Tony was THE advocate in our society for how we can treat people on the far side of the planet as dimensional people who have their own dreams and loves and families and hopes,” he said. “And I think that is the greatest achievement that he had.”

A message, and a messenger people haven't had a chance to connect with in a while.

Tenaglia said, “I think a lot of people are gonna come to the film because they need that dose of him again. I just miss him. I miss him.”

If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.

For more info:

Story produced by Gabriel Falcon. Editor: Carol Ross.

See also:

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The private Anthony Bourdain Sun, 11 Jul 2021 10:00:00 -0700-In 1999, Anthony Bourdain, then a chef at Les Halles brasserie, published “Don't Eat Before Reading This,” an essay that chronicled his days and nights as a …


Sunday Reading: Remembering Anthony Bourdain

Photograph by Jonas Bendiksen / Magnum

In 1999, Anthony Bourdain, then a chef at Les Halles brasserie, published “Don’t Eat Before Reading This,” an essay that chronicled his days and nights as a Manhattan cook. The piece, his first for The New Yorker, heralded the arrival of a singular new voice in food writing. With crackling precision, Bourdain gave us a peek behind the curtain at the high-energy yet opaque world of professional cooking. “Good food, good eating,” he observes, “is all about blood and organs, cruelty and decay.” Bourdain writes as if he were seated right next to you, about to dig into a delicious plate of Vietnamese bún chả or Jamaican jerk chicken; in other words, his essays are truly great jaunts. The piece quickly became a phenomenon, launching the chef’s writing career and shaking up the global culinary industry; it was later expanded into his best-selling memoir “Kitchen Confidential.”

Bourdain began his ascent as a writer and public personality when his mother sent a manuscript to me more than twenty years ago. Like any editor, I receive many unsolicited manuscripts, and each one carries a message: ignore this at your peril; brilliance could await. I read Bourdain’s piece and started laughing almost immediately. The essay took us behind the scenes of a restaurant kitchen, and did so with a cool eye and warm sense of the absurd. I called Bourdain that day and said that I hoped we could publish the piece right away. A couple of weeks later, there were TV trucks parked outside his restaurant.

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This week, we remember Tony, who had friends everywhere. “Roadrunner,” a documentary about the late chef and his life, directed by the Academy Award-winning filmmaker Morgan Neville, premières across the country on Friday. To honor Tony, his integrity, and his taste for life, we’re bringing you a selection of pieces by and about him. In “Anthony Bourdain’s Moveable Feast,” Patrick Radden Keefe profiles the author, exploring his love of street food and accompanying him as he films his food show “Parts Unknown.” (“To viewers who complain that the show has become too focussed on politics, Bourdain responds that food is politics: most cuisines reflect an amalgamation of influences and tell a story of migration and conquest, each flavor representing a sedimentary layer of history.”) In “Anthony Bourdain and the Power of Telling the Truth,” Helen Rosner writes about Bourdain’s evolution from a “bad-boy chef” into a travelling culinary gourmand, and considers his surprising late turn as a #MeToo activist. Finally, in a New Yorker Radio Hour special, from 2017, we hear from Bourdain himself on his revelatory treks across the globe and why our relationships with food and its attendant pleasures continue to matter.

—David Remnick

A New York chef spills some trade secrets.

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Guided by a lusty appetite for indigenous culture and cuisine, the swaggering chef has become a travelling statesman.

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In his final years, Bourdain attained a new sort of celebrity as an activist and an overt and uncompromising figure of moral authority.

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In 2017, the chef talked with David Remnick about his extraordinary career.

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... read more

– July 11, 2021

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