BOSTON (REUTERS, AFP) - US celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, host of CNN’s food-and-travel-focused “Parts Unknown” television series, hanged himself in a French hotel room, CNN said on Friday (June 8), in the second high-profile suicide of a US celebrity this week. He was 61.
Bourdain was found dead in a hotel room in Strasbourg by his close friend Eric Ripert, the French executive chef of New York elite restaurant Le Bernardin. He had been working on an upcoming episode of the Emmy-winning show about travel, food and the peoples of the world, CNN said.
“It is with extraordinary sadness we can confirm the death of our friend and colleague, Anthony Bourdain,” the network said early Friday.
“His love of great adventure, new friends, fine food and drink and the remarkable stories of the world made him a unique storyteller. His talents never ceased to amaze us and we will miss him very much," CNN said.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with his daughter and family at this incredibly difficult time.”
Bourdain leaves behind a teenage daughter Ariane, from his relationship with his ex-wife Ottavia Busia. He had been dating Italian actress Asia Argento since 2017.
A gifted storyteller, Bourdain explored haute cuisine and street food alike in his travels, passionately encouraging viewers to “eat and drink with people without fear and prejudice”. He often drank on the show and was public about his struggle with own demons, including drug abuse.
“We ask very simple questions: What makes you happy? What do you eat? What do you like to cook?” Bourdain said in an acceptance speech for a Peabody Award in 2014. “And everywhere in the world we go and ask these simple questions. We tend to get really astonishing answers.”
After a start washing dishes in a restaurant, Bourdain gradually rose through the ranks to become a chef.
Bourdain’s profile began to soar in 1999, when the New Yorker magazine published his article “Don’t Eat Before Reading This,” which he developed into the 2000 book, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly.
That led him to become a television host, starting with “A Cook’s Tour” on the Food Network and later with the Travel Channel, before he joined CNN in 2013.
“It can’t be overemphasised. He has a level of authenticity you don’t commonly get with people on TV,” astrophysicist and author Neil deGrasse Tyson said on CNN. “Outside they’re whatever else. He was authentic. You knew that.”
Bourdain’s celebrity was such that when Obama went to Hanoi, Vietnam in May 2016, he met him at a casual restaurant for a US$6 (S$8) meal of noodles and grilled pork.
President Donald Trump told reporters as he left the White House that Bourdain’s death was “very shocking”.
“I enjoyed his show, he was quite a character,” Trump said.
On the network, anchors struggled to hold back tears as they reminisced about their late colleague and urged people faced with despair or who know people struggling with depression to call a suicide hotline.
CNN anchor John Berman remembered his late colleague as a “human contradiction”.
“He loved food. He wrote about food. He lived food. He thought we obsessed about food too much,” Bermand said.
“He once said to me, ‘I wish people would stop taking pictures of food and have more sex.’ You know, because what he really wanted to do was to show people life.”
Bourdain’s death comes three days after American designer Kate Spade, who built a fashion empire on her signature handbags, was found dead in her New York apartment of suicide on Tuesday.
“Success does not protect you from depression. It doesn’t protect you from suicide,” Jodi Gold, director of the Gold Centre for Mind Health and Wellness, said on CNN.
Suicide rates rose in nearly every US state from 1999 to 2016, according to data from the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday.
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•Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019
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Nearly 45,000 people committed suicide in 2016, making it one of three leading causes of death in the United States, along with Alzheimer’s disease and drug overdoses.
Suicide rates surged among people aged 45 to 64, according to the CDC report. The centre recommended a broad approach to prevention, including boosting economic support by states, supporting family and friends after a suicide, and identifying and supporting those at risk.