What Anthony Bourdain Was Really Like, According To Chef Ludo Lefebvre - Exclusive

In the years since his death in 2018, the culinary community has been reeling over the loss of Anthony Bourdain. In his lifetime, Bourdain was somewhat of a mystery, from his surprising lack of a celebrity-sized fortune to reports of his shy, restrained demeanor off-camera. For anyone who's binged cooking shows, high-energy foodie celebs are the norm; Bourdain, gently engaging with local cooks on his Travel Channel "No Reservations" series, came across as humble and curious. So what was he really like?

In an exclusive interview with Mashed, Bourdain's longtime friend, chef Ludo Lefebvre, provided some unique insights. The two worked together on multiple projects, most notably "The Taste." Bourdain also traveled to Lefebvre's native Burgundy, France, to explore that region's unique foods, for an episode of "No Reservations," during which Lefebvre really got to know the world-traveling culinary expert. 

"I did a lot of shows with Anthony Bourdain," he recalled. "We did a few ones together, but the best one I did with him is when we did 'No Reservations' together, and we went back to my country to Burgundy." Lefebvre said Bourdain was kind and respectful during the entire process. "Anthony is very humble — a very nice guy. I mean, he was very smart and had a big heart. He loved everybody," he said. "Just to be around him and see how he was with people, it was a good example for me in my life, how to be with people, how to talk with people, and to really listen to people. He was really listening to everything about people. He was very smart about that."

Anthony Bourdain had a huge appetite

If you assumed Bourdain was just taking a few bites for the camera, but not doing much real-time noshing, Lefebvre revealed that his hearty appetite was not an act. "We went back to my country. We went to eat in the house of my grandma, went to see my first chef where I did my apprenticeship. He met all my friends. We partied. We ate. I mean, we ate a lot with Anthony," Lefebvre said. "Anthony was eating a lot!"

According to Lefebvre, Bourdain was happy to eat just about any dish placed in front of him. "He loved this coq au vin. He loved boeuf bourguignon and coq au vin," Lefebvre said. "And he was very passionate about cheese. He was obsessed with cheese. Obsessed. Obsessed with cheese and with wine, of course, but cheese — it was just like, 'oh my God, Anthony can eat so much cheese!' He loved French cheese." In addition to this appetite for food, Bourdain had an appetite for all life experiences, Lefebvre added. "He was so open — he was amazing! I learned a lot with him," he said.

Bourdain's competitive side was not an act

Ludo Lefebvre spent a lot of time with Anthony Bourdain and Nigella Lawson when they were on "The Taste." It was during this experience that Lefebvre realized how competitive Bourdain can be. "You know, chefs love competition!" he pointed out. "Because Anthony was so much about competition that I loved to compete against him all the time. All the time it was a little, 'I'm going to beat you!'" he recalled. "We really, really pushed each other to compete. I loved it. It was fun. It was fun." Lefebvre added, "I loved when Anthony got mad. I loved it."

Above all else, though, Lefebvre said Bourdain was a great friend. "He supported me a lot, too," he recalled. "We did some food events together, some charity [events] together. Did a book together. I did 'Mind of a Chef' with him also [on] PBS. He just was great. Like I said, I learned so much with Anthony, not just with food, but about everything, about life. He was like a bible."

Shop Chef Ludo Lefebvre's Vin De Table wine collection. Be sure to follow him on Instagram for more culinary adventures.