What Celebrity Chefs Remember Most About Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain was one of the most prominent figures in American media as a chef, author, and television personality. Through his work, he introduced an entire generation of people to the inner workings of restaurants, underrepresented countries around the world, and most importantly: food. From his early years working in restaurants like Brasserie Les Halles, to his breakout book "Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly," to his later travel shows like "No Reservations" — Anthony Bourdain became one of the most highly-respected and influential people in the industry.

Although more than half a decade has passed since Bourdain's tragic passing, his name is still mourned and celebrated worldwide. Beneath the fame and glamor, Anthony Bourdain was complex and emotional, but most of all — he was authentic and real. Although his life resulted in tragedy, people who knew him remember him fondly for the person he was. In this article, we've compiled what several celebrity chefs remember the most about Anthony Bourdain.

Eric Ripert

If you've ever watched any of Bourdain's travel shows, you've likely spotted one of his closest friends — Eric Ripert. Over the decades, Ripert and Bourdain traveled the world and appeared together extensively on TV. Ripert first started the relationship after picking up a copy of "Kitchen Confidential" (the first book he ever read in English). In the book, Bourdain famously wrote, "I never order fish on Monday, unless I'm eating at Le Bernardin — a four-star restaurant where I know they are buying their fish directly from the source." Eric reached out to Bourdain after his restaurant was mentioned, and the rest of their friendship is history.

Bourdain didn't have many lifelong friendships besides Ripert. Eric even introduced him to his second wife, Ottavia Busia. At the time of Bourdain's death, the two were traveling together in France shooting new episodes of "Parts Unknown" together. He was the one that found him unresponsive, setting off a wave of grief around the world.

In the aftermath, Eric tweeted, "Anthony was my best friend. 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." In order to honor Bourdain's legacy, Ripert and Chef José Andrés launched #BourdainDay on June 25, the same day as Tony's birthday, along with a fundraiser created in his honor. 

Andrew Zimmern

Andrew Zimmern is a food writer and host of the Travel Channel's "Bizzare Foods" series. He was a long-time friend of Bourdain's whose relationship began as a friendly rivalry. "As his friendly competitor during the first four or five years we were on the network together, growing our friendship, there was a lot of competition. It was hysterical," Zimmern reflected to Mashed. "We'd call each other late at night or send texts or emails. And he'd be like, 'How'd you get into Cuba?' We went to do our Cuba show, right? And I was like, 'Well, how did you get into Iran?' And then he'd text me, 'How did you get into Syria?' I mean, so we're constantly playing that game."

When Bourdain passed, Zimmern tweeted, "A piece of my heart is truly broken this morning." He continued, "Tony was a symphony. I wish everyone could have seen all of him. A true friend." Later, Zimmern wrote a piece for Variety, remembering him as someone who "sought to highlight, to underscore, the most simple essence of a place and its people. ... He made the invisible, visible and understandable. He raised up the humblest aspects of our community, from the prep cook to the rural farmer on the far side of the planet, and he hung out with the cultural royalty of our generation. ... Who didn't want to be with Tony when he walked into a room? He was the most charismatic man I knew." 

Daniel Boulud

Daniel Boulud, the highly acclaimed French chef and restaurateur of two Michelin-star restaurant Daniel in New York City, was just as shocked as the rest of the world when Bourdain took his own life. In an Instagram post, Boulud said, "Today the world lost a giant force of nature. [Bourdain was] a brilliant chef who knew how to speak the language of cooks and an unparalleled food /travel /culture #storyteller but most importantly a dear friend." He finished by remembering Bourdain for what many remember him for — "His passionate character and true honesty will be missed across the industry and the world."

Boulud later made headlines by telling US Weekly his take on Bourdain's untimely passing. "His heart was broken, I think." Although he didn't dig further into what he meant, he went on to focus on how he remembered his friend. "Anthony, I have many memories, as a friend, as a man who could connect with anyone and make people dream about food." 

Boulud talked about how his best memory with Bourdain to his hometown in Lyon with Bourdain. "He took me to the school that I grew up as a kid and we sat down with 8-year-old children at the cafeteria and talked food with the children and had a lunch with the kids," Boulud said. "Tony was so impressed by the quality of the food they were serving the children and I think that touched me a lot."

Nigella Lawson

Although Bourdain is probably best remembered for his shows "No Reservations" and "Parts Unknown," he also spent time judging food competitions like "Top Chef." He went on to co-star with author and television personality Nigella Lawson as a judge for the ABC cooking competition show "The Taste" for three seasons. When remembering her time with Bourdain, she told CantonRep that it was "such a wonderful adventure." She continued, "It's not that he's a great loss to the food world. He's a great loss to the world."

"He had his own voice, and it was so particularly his," Lawson said. "And his way of looking at things, and I think he had a great gift of articulating his thoughts in a way that was very direct and very highly charged, yet with a calmness as well ... He was so extraordinarily articulate," Lawson continued. "Just when he talks ... every sentence was beautifully weighted ... and his every thought was so ably transmitted that one got the idea behind it, the wit in it that made you smile as he said something." Nigella beautifully conveyed the reason why Bourdain became one of the most influential figures on TV, no matter where he was or what he was eating.

José Andrés

One chef Anthony Bourdain had a profound influence on was José Andrés. When Bourdain passed, he took to Twitter and said, "My friend..I know you are on a Ferry going to somewhere amazing.....you still had so many places to show us, whispering to our souls the great possibilities beyond what we could see with our own eyes...you only saw beauty in all people. you will always travel with me."

Recently, Andrés created a new travel show called "José Andrés and Family in Spain," available on Discovery+. In the show, he and his daughters, Carlota, Inés, and Lucía, travel throughout Spain. When it comes to capturing moments on camera, Andrés says he took inspiration from his late friend. "I had a good mentor. He was a poet," he told HOLA! He said he's still learning the ropes when it comes to the show, but he's not the only one who emulates Bourdain — his daughters do, too. He went on to say, "He was a guy that understood the moment and was able to transform the moment into a phrase that we'll forever remember."

Together with Eric Ripert, Andrés called the world to celebrate Bourdain Day on June 25. "I suffered so much grief after what happened that I only hope people will turn all that grief into the happiness of life, and remembering how Tony made the world a smaller place by bringing us all together," Andrés told Esquire.

Marco Pierre White

Marco Pierre White was the first British chef as well as the youngest chef to win three Michelin stars at the restaurant Harveys. In 1990, he released "White Heat" — an edgy cookbook that would become an incredibly important influence for many in the industry. 

Bourdain repeatedly named "White Heat" as a major influence and even wrote a piece about how it affected his life and those of chefs he knew. "I don't know if I can adequately convey to you the impact that 'White Heat' had on me, on the chefs and cooks around me, on subsequent generations," Bourdain wrote in an excerpt for the 25th-anniversary edition of "White Heat" (via Eater). Before "Kitchen Confidentialwas written, Bourdain continued, "Marco Pierre White gave us all a voice, gave us hope, a new template for survival. We were no longer alone in the world, a despised, underpaid minority, reeking of garlic and salmon. ... This book gave us power."

After Bourdain's passing, White remembered Bourdain fondly in an article by The Local Tongue. "Anthony was a beautiful boy. He was exceptional, he was special, he was clever." He continued, "But the most important thing is, he is one of those very few chefs who created a movement, and not a following. He was a true artist. He was a poet. He was cool. He was the Hemingway of gastronomy. And he was my friend. I admired him, I respected him." Bourdain left a mark on his own heroes.

Andy Ricker

If you ever watched one of Bourdain's trips to the north of Thailand in Chiang Mai, you'd probably recognize Andy Ricker, the chef and owner of Pok Pok Restaurants in the United States. Long before they met, Ricker said "Kitchen Confidential" really hit home with cooks like him, who had never had their stories in the kitchen told in any sort of glamorous way whatsoever. When he finally met him, he told Explore Parts Unknown, "He was cool as hell. He was a great writer. He told our stories and he recognized us as cooks. He embodied what we were about." 

When asked how Bourdain influenced his work, Ricker said, "A lot of cooks and chefs out there call him Uncle Tony because he was just, like, the wise f*****g uncle that you can go to for advice." Ricker continued, "Tony's influence made me more straightforward, like, tell it like it is."

Ricker told The Local Tongue about one of his favorite memories with Tony in Thailand. "One of my happiest memories of Uncle Tony is when after eating grilled pig tails, pig brain curry and luu (raw spiced pork blood with raw laap and herbs) at Huang Him Tong in Mae On, Chiang Mai, he declared it the best meal he had ever eaten in Thailand." He finished, "It helped move the needle for western folk's perception of this kind of food as 'weird' or 'gross' and only-eaten-on-a-dare, to that of delicious and worth seeking out."

Yotam Ottolenghi

Yotam Ottolenghi is an Israeli-born British chef and food writer with several bestselling recipe books. Back in 2013, he spent two days with Anthony Bourdain, showing him around Jerusalem for an episode of Parts Unknown. "The conversations were brilliant," Yotam told Explore Parts Unknown, "and the meals delicious. I quickly realized that I was talking to a man with an incredibly intuitive understanding of very complicated situations. He took nothing as a given. Everything was questioned, discussed, debated. He understood how important it is to get to know individuals, instead of simply taking the official line we're always given."

Yotam continued, "Jerusalem gets its fair share of visitors. They listen to the same stories, get the same narrative. For Tony, this was never enough. When the show came out, covering Israel, and the West Bank, and Gaza, you could immediately tell that this was no ordinary visitor. He visits Gaza, meets Jewish settlers in the West Bank, turns over every stone, and ends up telling a complex and very human story. This was his strength, and it shows how brilliant Tony was as a storyteller." It is beautiful to hear how so many different people instantly felt the power of Bourdain's storytelling power and curiosity when they met him. 

Fergus Henderson

Fergus Henderson is the English Chef who founded the famous restaurant St John and is one of the most recognizable and beloved chefs in modern times. When Anthony Bourdain first went to his restaurant, he said he ate as much as he could off the menu. "It really was the restaurant of my dreams," he wrote for The Guardian. "I loved everything about it: the attitude, the look, the food, the wine." In the article, Bourdain went on to praise Henderson as a "loyal guy, with zero vanity, zero pretense, and a 'who me?' attitude towards his fame and influence, which of course is totally charming." He finished, "He is a walking Buddha to chefs all over the world, a total rockstar."

Fergus also remembers that same moment when Anthony first came to St John fondly. He told The Local Tongue, "The first moment Anthony came into my life was at St John. He had arrived for supper. It was one of those nights in the kitchen when everyone was just a bit down, a bit gloomy. But help was at hand. Anthony rocked up to the kitchen, with a personality bigger than life, got down on his knees and said, 'You guys rock.' Just a few words of encouragement brought happiness and equilibrium back. He had a knack of bringing energy, fun and games to the table. The room was always better with Anthony in it."

Ming Tsai

Ming Tsai is an American chef, television personality, and cookbook author that focuses on a fusion between Western and Eastern elements of food. When Bourdain passed, Tsai tweeted, "Just so crazy. We lost an icon and incredible story teller.......just so sad....." When remembering Bourdain, he told CBS Boston, "What you saw in the show was exactly how he was, exactly how he was in person, which is why I loved him." 

Just a few days later, Ming Tsai hosted a special episode of his show, "Simply Ming," joined by legendary chef Jacques Pepin in order to honor their dear friend Anthony Bourdain. "A very special show in honor of our buddy, Anthony Bourdain. We're cooking from our heart," said Tsai on the episode. "We love you, Tony," Pépin followed, with Tsai agreeing. "We owe a lot to you, Tony," Tsai continued. "You were the best storyteller and we miss you." The rest of the episode was dedicated to cooking, eating, and laughter — all of which Anthony would have enjoyed very much.

Jacques Pépin

One of the legendary chefs Bourdain credits for helping his career is Jacques Pépin. Anthony even wrote the forward for Pépin's 2003 book "The Apprentice," in which he basically stated that his career wouldn't have happened without Jacques. "In a very real sense," Bourdain wrote, "I owe everything to Jacques Pépin." 

Pépin, in many ways, was Anthony's role model and someone he aspired to be like. The two chefs remained friends for over 25 years. In an interview with KQED, Pépin reminisced on his relationship with Bourdain. "Watching his shows I would experience the culture of a country in a way I hadn't known, in Vietnam or Lebanon or the Bronx. He revealed the food in such a way that it became a window into the people and their values and aspirations. He did this by getting close to the people, truly talking and connecting with them, sharing culinary and other experiences. He was so much more than a reporter flying in for an interview. And yet when it came to interviewing he was excellent, very scrupulous and honest."

Pépin went into detail about how Bourdain affected those in the kitchen, too. "Tony connected people in the culinary world to each other in a way that democratized cooking. I don't think anyone has done that as well."

Andy Richman

Sure, on the surface, it might not have seemed like Anthony Bourdain was the biggest fan of Adam Richmond from "Man v. Food" (he might have said he only watched "Man v. Food" to see if Richman was going to die). But in reality, Richman and Bourdain were actually friends who texted often and even hung out from time to time. In fact, Richman got one of the few rare apologies Bourdain has ever given out in his life. Although it was clear Bourdain wasn't a fan of "Man v. Food," their relationship remained strong despite it.

After his passing, Richman posted on Twitter, "Just realized that today was the day we lost you. Those times I want to call or text you & I realize I can't still feel like a gut punch. I was the new guy – and you and @chefaz proved that the measure of great men was how they treat lesser men. I miss you, Tony."

David Chang

David Chang — the television personality, podcaster, author, and founder of Momofuku — like most others, was affected deeply by his friend's untimely passing. In his own book, "Eat a Peach," he discussed his own struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts when working in the restaurant industry. In remarks published by People for the release of his book, he said, "It wasn't supposed to happen to him. That was supposed to happen to me. He was supposed to hold it together for all of us." He went on to say, "All I know is it happened to Tony with all he had going for him. It could happen to anybody."

Chang remembers when Bourdain was there for him at some of his own lowest points. Once, after a meeting where David was obviously struggling, Bourdain sent him an email: "Be a fool. For love. For yourself. What you think MIGHT possibly make you happy. Even for a little while. Whatever the cost or good sense might dictate. Good to see you. Tony."

In a podcast, Chang reflected on his relationship with Bourdain — "the cool uncle, the sage, the oracle, the person that would dole out advice." He continued, "In many ways, he's been my mentor and my North Star, because he trail-blazed a path that would not be available to me otherwise. I am in great debt to him, I miss him so much," he said (via Independent).