Master Storyteller Anthony Bourdain ’78—A Culinary Life
Anthony Bourdain was a world-renowned chef, author, and media personality. He was admired by millions for traveling the globe to host his widely popular TV shows, No Reservations and Parts Unknown. He also served as editor-at-large for the travel journalism site Roads & Kingdoms, where he posted his Dispatch by Bourdain essays.
A 1978 graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, Chef Bourdain never lost his love for his alma mater, returning often to speak with students or shoot segments of his programs on campus. His influence inspired countless students to enroll at the CIA, and to follow their dreams to a life of food. In December 2017, he delivered the commencement speech to graduates at the college’s New York campus. During the ceremony, the CIA awarded him the honorary degree Doctor of Humane Letters in Culinary Arts.
Longtime friends and fellow chefs Eric Ripert and José Andrés joined the CIA in 2019 to announce The Anthony Bourdain Legacy Scholarship for students who hope to follow Anthony’s global path of discovery. Later that year, the college honored Chef Bourdain by dedicating Les Halles D’Anthony Bourdain in Roth Hall, the main building of its New York campus. The bustling hallway and a plaque bearing his image will forever remind faculty, students, and visitors of Anthony Bourdain’s amazing legacy.
Discovering the Kitchen
Chef Bourdain began his culinary career with a summer job as a dishwasher in Provincetown, MA while attending Vassar College. By the end of the summer, he had been reassigned to a cooking station and realized he would need more refined skills to keep up with the other cooks. He subsequently enrolled at the CIA and graduated in 1978. Afterwards he spent more than two decades working in professional kitchens, including the Rainbow Room, The Supper Club, Coco Pazzo Teatro, and Les Halles. His best-selling memoir, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, stemmed from an article he’d written for New Yorker magazine about life behind the scenes in restaurant kitchens.
A Cook’s Tour
In late 2000, Chef Bourdain set out to eat his way across the globe, looking for “kicks, thrills, and epiphanies” and “the perfect meal.” The book, A Cook’s Tour, and its companion Food Network series chronicled his adventures and misadventures on that voyage.
He returned to the CIA campus in May 2001 to tape a segment for A Cook’s Tour that featured the places that shaped his career. Chef Bourdain is the author of The Nasty Bits, Bone in the Throat, Gone Bamboo, and Typhoid Mary: An Urban Historical, a book that offers a view of kitchen life a century ago. He co-authored Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook with the restaurant’s proprietor, Phillipe Lajaunie, plus Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook, a sequel to Kitchen Confidential, and No Reservations: Around the World on an Empty Stomach, a companion book to the television series that aired for nine seasons on the Travel Channel.
In 2012, he and Joel Rose co-wrote the original graphic novel Get Jiro! for DC Comic/Vertigo, with art by Langdon Foss. His second graphic novel, Get Jiro: Blood and Sushi, again co-written with Joel Rose with art by Alé Garza, was released on October 28, 2015. A prequel to Get Jiro!, Chef Bourdain’s story is reminiscent of a Yakuza action movie. “I wanted to take the story back to its beginnings in Japan (albeit a slightly-in-the-future, dystopic Japan) and indulge my own enthusiasms for both the place and the many classic genre films that have been made there,” he explained.
His first cookbook in 10 years, Appetites, was published in October 2016. Written with the no-holds-barred style of Parts Unknown, the book includes a selection of recipes Chef Bourdain believes every cook should know. Coinciding with the release of the cookbook, he embarked on The Hunger, a 15-city live show and tour described as “an unyielding, brutally honest monologue reflecting on diverse culture, street cuisine, and his travels to lesser-known locations around the world.” He then released Hungry Ghosts, a four-part comic book series published by Dark Horse.
Chef Bourdain’s articles and essays have appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Los Angeles Times, The Times of London, The Observer, Gourmet, Maxim, Food Arts, The Independent, and Town & Country.
The Travel Channel aired two seasons of Chef Bourdain’s show The Layover. His show, Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown on CNN, received numerous Emmy Awards, a Peabody Award, Producers Guild of America Producer of the Year award, and a Critics’ Choice Award.
He was a judge on Top Chef and served as a consultant and writer for the HBO series, Treme. In addition, Chef Bourdain was the executive producer for the PBS series Mind of a Chef. The program follows chefs as they visit inspirational destinations around the world and culinary icons that have shaped their careers.
Editor and Producer
Ecco Press, a division of HarperCollins, announced in September 2011 that Chef Bourdain would have his own publishing line. His line of books include L.A. Son: My Life, My City, My Food by fellow CIA graduate Roy Choi, Eating Viet Nam: Dispatches from a Blue Plastic Table by Graham Holliday, They Call Me Supermensch: A Backstage Pass to the Amazing World of Film, Food, and Rock’n’Roll by Shep Gordon, You’re Better Than Me: A Memoir by Bonnie McFarlane, and Grand Forks: A History of American Dining in 100 Reviews by Marilyn Hagerty.
A film adaptation based on Bourdain’s novel Bone in the Throat, on which he served as executive producer, was released at the 2015 SXSW Festival in Austin, TX. The suspenseful culinary mystery of the same name follows an ambitious young chef who is a witness to a murder in his own kitchen by his uncle, who is part of the East End London Mob.
On April 16, 2016, executive producer Bourdain and director and executive producer Lydia Tenagalia premiered their documentary Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent at the Tribeca Film Festival. Co-produced by CNN Films and Zero Point Zero, the film examines the life of Jeremiah Tower, former chef at Chez Panisse and the groundbreaking Stars, who helped pioneer the idea of New American and California cuisines.
An avid devotee of the martial art of jiu-jitsu, Chef Bourdain took first place in his division at the IBJJF Spring International Open Championship held in New York City on April 9, 2016.
Chef Bourdain was inducted into the James Beard Foundation Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America in 2008. He has won numerous James Beard awards, Emmys, a Clio, Critics Choice awards, a Peabody, and a Webby award for his writing and television series. At the 2019 Creative Emmy Awards, Chef Bourdain received two awards posthumously for Outstanding Writing for a Nonfiction Program and Outstanding Informational Series or Special for Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown.
Chef Anthony Bourdain majored in culinary arts at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY.