What The Last 12 Months Of Anthony Bourdain's Life Were Like

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When Anthony Bourdain died on June 8, 2018, it was one of those "where were you when you heard the news" moments. The celebrity chef, world traveler, and no-BS host was so much to so many.

To the food and hospitality industry, Bourdain was the guy who revealed what really goes on behind that fish special of the day and how much abuse staff endure to deliver that picturesque plate of food. To those with a hankering for more than what their neighborhood had to offer, Bourdain showed that travel isn't about taking a selfie at the Eiffel Tower or Colosseum but sticking your fingers in a bowl of curry or slicing a ham leg while surrounded by locals. To men, especially those in the restaurant industry and in Hollywood, he showed the importance of championing women's voices. And to everyone else, Bourdain showed that even a guy with the coolest job in the world cannot escape the clutches of addiction and mental illness.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Anthony Bourdain shot the 12th season of his fifth show

In the year before Anthony Bourdain died, he was doing what he did for the majority of his previous 15 years — traveling and eating delicious food. His travel show career started with A Cook's Tour on the Food Network, followed by No Reservations and The Layover. His most famous show, CNN's Parts Unknown, aired its 12th and final season in 2018.

The season premiered with a trip to a place Bourdain had surprisingly never been, Kenya, and was co-hosted by CNN colleague W. Kamau Bell, who was just happy to be invited. "It felt like I won a contest," said the United Shades of America host, according to Variety. Bell wrote in a CNN Travel post that he'd hang out with the crew after filming: "I was — and still am — in awe of him. It is one thing to be an experienced and gracious world traveler. It is another thing to be a writer who can seemingly easily, humorously, and profoundly sum up the human experience."

In a particularly special point in the episode, Bourdain and Bell were hanging out overlooking the savanna, as one does, and the chef shared some perspective about how he feels about his life and career. "As soon as the cameras turn off," Bourdain said, "I f*cking pinch myself. I can't believe I get to do this."

Anthony Bourdain went back to his roots

In what became the series finale, Bourdain returned to a place he knew well — New York's Lower East Side. Bourdain grew up in New York City and New Jersey, the son of Pierre Bourdain, a salesman who became an executive for Columbia Records, and Gladys, a staff editor at The New York Times, according to The Guardian. Bourdain detested the relative stability of his household, and by the time he was in his twenties, he was going to the Lower East Side to score bags of "toilet" heroin. "You knew you were doing something bad when you bought a product called 'toilet,' and, you know, shot it in your arm," he said in the episode according to Eater.

But New York was more than drugs and punk music for Bourdain, although it was certainly both of those things as well. New York is where he became a successful chef, running the top-rated kitchens that inspired his New Yorker essay that went on to become his book, Kitchen Confidential.

But for a guy so influenced by New York, the Parts Unknown finale rarely mentioned the host's backstory. Instead, Bourdain spent the episode listening, which is exactly how he wanted it. "He always used to say 'less me, more be,' which meant it's really about listening to the other people tell that story," said the show's producer Sandra Zweig to Eater.

Anthony Bourdain continued to overcome addiction

"I should've died in my 20s," Bourdain said in a 2016 interview with Biography.com (via CNBC). "I became successful in my 40s. I became a dad in my 50s. I feel like I've stolen a car — a really nice car — and I keep looking in the rear-view mirror for flashing lights. But there's been nothing yet."

After starting with heroin in 1980, Bourdain quit in 1987, moving onto methadone before spending a few years hooked on cocaine. "I just bottomed out on crack," he told The New Yorker. Bourdain sank so low that he'd hunt for crack in the carpet in his apartment, only to discover paint chips. Bourdain also experimented with LSD and recalled one of his trips in the 2020 Netflix documentary, Have a Good Trip: Adventures in Psychedelics.

But by 1990, Bourdain got clean. He survived when so many of his friends didn't and managed to spend the rest of his life off the hard stuff. Well, except for booze, which he drank liberally in the final 12 months of his life. "You see me drink myself stupid on my show all the time. And I have a lot of fun doing that. But I'm not sitting at home having a cocktail. Never, ever. I don't ever drink in my house," Bourdain told Men's Journal in 2014. "When I indulge, I indulge. But I don't let it bleed over into the rest of my life."

Anthony Bourdain was in love

Bourdain was successful in many respects, but he had trouble holding onto his relationships. His first marriage, to his high school sweetheart Nancy Putkoski, ended in 2005 after two decades. Two years later, he married Ottavia Busia, an Italian jiu-jitsu fighter, and they had a kid together named Ariane. But according to E! Online, the marriage couldn't withstand Bourdain's hectic travel schedule, and they split in 2016.

While the divorce was never finalized, the two amicably moved on, and Bourdain quickly met someone else who captured his heart. Bourdain met Italian actress and filmmaker Asia Argento while filming the Rome episode of Parts Unknown, and they hit it off. "When Anthony met Asia, it was instant chemistry," wrote friend Rose McGowan in an open letter following Bourdain's death.

Bourdain and Argento started to collaborate, and she directed a season 11 episode in Hong Kong. "I'd love to have her a continuing director," Bourdain told Indiewire shortly before his death. "I just don't think we can afford her. But, my god, I'd love nothing more than to repeat the experience. She made it incredible." Fixer Matt Walsh, who'd worked with Bourdain since 2005, told Vanity Fair the host had changed over the years. On shoots, he "sometimes seemed distracted or grumpy," Walsh said. But the Hong Kong episode with Argento was different. "He and Asia looked really in love," Walsh said. "They really dug each other."

Anthony Bourdain was a staunch supporter of the #MeToo Movement

Following the bombshell allegations against abuser Harvey Weinstein in 2017, Bourdain did what so many refused to do — he spoke out in support of women. "In these current circumstances, one must pick a side," he wrote in a Medium post following allegations against fellow chef and longtime friend Mario Batali. "I stand unhesitatingly and unwaveringly with the women. Not out of virtue, or integrity, or high moral outrage — as much as I'd like to say so — but because late in life, I met one extraordinary woman with a particularly awful story to tell, who introduced me to other extraordinary women with equally awful stories."

Of course, the woman he was talking about is then-partner Asia Argento, who was one of Weinstein's accusers and someone he supported wholeheartedly. When Argento addressed the Cannes Film Festival to call out people in the industry for years of neglecting to stop Weinstein's abuse, Bourdain was tremendously proud. "It was absolutely fearless to walk right into the lion's den and say what she said, the way she said it," he told IndieWire.

But while Bourdain didn't hesitate to point the finger at others, he also admitted his complicity. "To the extent which my work in Kitchen Confidential celebrated or prolonged a culture that allowed the kind of grotesque behaviors we're hearing about all too frequently is something I think about daily, with real remorse," he wrote.

Anthony Bourdain loved being a father

Despite no longer being romantically involved with Ottavia Busia, Bourdain remained close with his ex-wife and their daughter Ariane. When Bourdain wasn't on the road, he loved spending time with Ariane. "If I'm not traveling, I'm pretty much doing jack sh*t on a Friday night," he told People. "I'm not going to the hot new restaurant. I'm not walking a red carpet. I'm cooking something that my daughter decides she wants, or staying very close to home. [...] When my daughter goes to sleep, I'm out. I'm done."

Bourdain was 50 when Ariane was born, which is late for many, but for him, "it was just right." "At no point previously had I been old enough, settled enough, or mature enough for this, the biggest and most important of jobs: the love and care of another human being," he wrote in Appetites: a Cookbook, (via People). "I like being a father. No, I love being a father. Everything about it."

In February 2018, Bourdain told People that now that he had a daughter, he had something to live for. "There have been times, honestly, in my life that I figured, 'I've had a good run — why not just do this stupid thing, this selfish thing... jump off a cliff into water of indeterminate depth,'" he said. But, "I don't know that I would do that today — now that I'm a dad or reasonably happy."

Anthony Bourdain was working on a book

It's incredible that Bourdain found the time in between all his travels, TV shows, and celebrity cooking to be a prolific writer, but he did. Aside from the tell-all that launched him to fame, Kitchen Confidential, Bourdain wrote a collection of books, including a crime thriller (Gone Bamboo), a historical nonfiction (Typhoid Mary), a graphic novel (Get Jiro!), and several cookbooks (Les Halles Cookbook and Appetites).

In the last 12 months before he died, Bourdain was working on one final book, co-authored by longtime assistant Laurie Woolever. The book would be an illustrated guidebook of the world through food, but Bourdain didn't manage to finish it. Following his death, Woolever wrote in CNN Travel that having to finish the book herself was extremely difficult. "It's been a wrenching, lurching struggle to get back to that manuscript, as I grieve the enormous loss of his kind, profane, surprising and brilliant existence; I've been buoyed and motivated by the work that my colleagues have done to manifest a beautiful, if heartbreaking, final season of Parts Unknown, without the usual expository writing and post-production input from Tony."

But Woolever ended up finishing, filling in points that Bourdain would have written with essays from those who knew him best. The world will finally get to see the finished product, World Travel: An Irreverent Guide, on bookstore shelves in October 2020, according to Amazon.

Anthony Bourdain was absolutely exhausted

Travel can be exhausting for the majority of us, but imagine doing it more than 250 days a year? A source told People that all that travel for Parts Unknown left Bourdain "absolutely exhausted" in the final months of his life. "​His travel schedule was grueling and he often seemed quite beat-up from it, as anyone would be," the source said. "He'd put everything into the shoots and then go back to his room to isolate."

Bourdain was a perfectionist and left no time for himself when the shooting was finished, the source continued. "He pushed himself extremely hard. Most producers and crew don't work on every single episode, it's just too much especially if you have a family. But that wasn't an option for Tony."

In an interview published a month before he died, Bourdain told People he'd considered retiring but ended up retiring the idea instead. "I gave up on that. I've tried. I just think I'm just too nervous, neurotic, driven," he said. "I would have had a different answer a few years ago. I might have deluded myself into thinking that I'd be happy in a hammock or gardening. But no, I'm quite sure I can't. I'm going to pretty much die in the saddle."

Anthony Bourdain suffered from depression

To those who knew Bourdain, he was happy and focused on his work — how couldn't he be? He had the best job in the world. But Bourdain did speak about loneliness and depression, including in a 2016 episode of Parts Unknown

"I feel like Quasimodo the hunchback of Notre Dame — if he stayed in nice hotel suites with high-thread-count sheets, that would be me," he said, according to Eater. "I feel kind of like a freak, and I feel very isolated." In that same episode, Bourdain talked about feeling depressed: "I will find myself in an airport, for instance, and I'll order an airport hamburger. [...] Suddenly I look at the hamburger and I find myself in a spiral of depression that can last for days. 

But Bourdain indicated that he didn't think people would take his feelings seriously because he has the "best job in the world." "That guy over there loading sausages onto the grill, that's work," he said. "This is not so bad. It's alright. I'll make it." "It's like that with the good stuff too," he added. "I have a couple of happy minutes there where I'm thinking life is pretty good." Following his death, Rose McGowan told Deadline she was aware of her friend's battle with depression and knew he didn't act on it: "I know before Anthony died he reached out for help, and yet he did not take the doctor's advice."

Asia Argento cheated, but...

In the days before Anthony Bourdain died, Asia Argento was photographed holding hands with another man. This sparked outrage online, and Argento was blamed for what happened — but this was all a big misunderstanding. "People say I murdered him. They say I killed him," Argento said in a tearful interview with the Daily Mail. "People need to think that he killed himself for something like this? I cheated on him, but he cheated on me too. It wasn't a problem for us." "But I understand that the world needs to find a reason," she continued. "I would like to find a reason too. I don't have it. Maybe I would feel some solace in thinking there was something that happened."

Argento went on to explain that Bourdain's traveling work schedule meant that they didn't see each other often enough to be monogamous. "He was a man who traveled 265 days a year when we saw each other we took really great pleasure in each other's company," she said. "But we are not children. We are grown ups." Two years on from his death, Argento posted a photo of herself with a puffy face on Instagram. "You want pain? Here's the pain. No filter needed. Two years without my love."

Anthony Bourdain inspired millions

Whether you watched his show, read his books, or looked up to his skills as a chef, Anthony Bourdain's death hit like a punch in the gut. "He taught us about food — but more importantly, about its ability to bring us together," tweeted former President Barack Obama, who famously shared a meal with Bourdain in Vietnam. "To make us a little less afraid of the unknown. We'll miss him."

Chef Eric Ripert also shared his sympathies. "Anthony was my best friend," Ripert tweeted. "An exceptional human being, so inspiring & generous. One of the great storytellers who connected w so many. I pray he is at peace from the bottom of my heart. My love & prayers are also w his family, friends, and loved ones."

But it wasn't just celebrities who were hit hard. CNN did a call-out to fans to share their thoughts of Bourdain and received an overwhelming response. "There were waves of emotion. Thousands of notes, comments, and messages of support. It was beyond what we anticipated," wrote CNN Worldwide's Amy Entelis in the foreword of the 2019 book, Anthony Bourdain: Remembered. The book includes quotes from people around the world, including author Jill Filipovic, filmmaker Ken Burns, hip-hop star Questlove, and chef José Andrés, but the odes didn't stop there. According to Forbes, chefs declared June 25 (Bourdain's birthday) to be Bourdain Day in remembrance of their colleague.

Anthony Bourdain skipped his last meal

On June 8, 2018, Anthony Bourdain was shooting an episode for the twelfth season of Parts Unknown in Kaysersberg, a small village in the Alsace region of France. According to The New York Times, Bourdain skipped dinner and went straight to his hotel room. The next morning, when he didn't arrive for breakfast with chef Eric Ripert, the receptionist went to his room and found Bourdain found dead by suicide. Police investigators found no narcotics in his system, save for a trace of a non-narcotic medicine in a therapeutic dose.

Bourdain's body was cremated there in France, and his family held a small ceremony. "He would want as little fuss as possible," said the late chef's mother, Gladys Bourdain. Speaking to Today, Chris Bourdain said the death illuminated how sadly common suicide is and said he thinks his brother would have liked being "the poster boy for suicide prevention."

"Suicide is something more common than I ever thought. So many people came talking to me, saying my grandmother, mother, father, sister [died by suicide]," Chris said. "But nobody ever wants to talk about it. It's the elephant in the damn room. Everybody has suicide in their life somewhere."

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).