PARIS — Anthony Bourdain, the celebrity chef and citizen of the world who inspired millions to share his delight in food and the bonds it created, was found dead in his hotel room Friday in France while working on his CNN series on culinary traditions. He was 61.
CNN confirmed the death, saying that Bourdain was found unresponsive Friday morning by friend and chef Eric Ripert in the city of Haut-Rhin. It called his death a suicide. Bourdain's assistant Laurie Woolever would not comment when reached by The Associated Press.
Widely loved and rarely afraid to speak his mind, he mixed a coarseness and whimsical sense of adventurousness, true to the rock 'n' roll music he loved. Bourdain's "Parts Unknown" seemed like an odd choice for CNN when it started in 2013 — part travelogue, part history lesson, part love letter to exotic foods. Each trip was an adventure. There had been nothing quite like it on the staid news network, and it became an immediate hit.
“We are constantly asking ourselves, first and foremost, what is the most (messed) up thing we can do next week?” he said in a 2014 interview with the AP.
Bourdain's breakthrough as an author came with the 2000 publication of his "Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly." The book created a sensation by combining frank details of his life and career with behind-the-scenes observations on the culinary industry.
Colleagues, friends and admirers shared their grief Friday. CNN chief executive Jeff Zucker sent a company letter calling Bourdain "an exceptional talent. A storyteller. A gifted writer. A world traveler. An adventurer."
As president, Barack Obama sat down for some bun cha in Hanoi, Vietnam, with Bourdain in an episode of "Parts Unknown" in 2016. On Friday, he shared a photo of the interaction on Twitter: "'Low plastic stool, cheap but delicious noodles, cold Hanoi beer.' This is how I'll remember Tony. He taught us about food — but more importantly, about its ability to bring us together. To make us a little less afraid of the unknown. We'll miss him."
As he left the White House for the G-7 summit in Quebec, President Donald Trump, whom Bourdain had sharply criticized, offered his “heartfelt condolences” to Bourdain's family, which includes his 11-year-old daughter, Ariane.
In Destin, Bud Schweickert, an artist and sculptor who owns Sailmark Designs on Azalea Drive, had a special affinity for the celebrity chef.
In July 2016 Schweickert refurbished the 5 1/2-foot red snapper sculpture that sits across the Destin Ice and Seafood sign on U.S. Highway 98. He originally built the snapper in 1996 but decided it needed a touch-up after years of wear and tear.
Among other details, Schweickert put a lifelike sculpture of Bourdain’s face in the fish's mouth.
“Bud is really into local food and trying to sustain our fisheries and resources,” his sister, Eileen Schweickert, told the Destin Log in 2016. “And Bourdain is into that kind of stuff, too. So it fits, sort of.”
The fish still bears Bourdain’s face.
Daily News reporter Annie Blanks contributed to this report.