LOS ANGELES - SEPTEMBER 9: Anthony Bourdain at the 2017 Creative Arts Emmy Awards at the Microsoft Theater on September 9, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.

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Chef And TV Host Anthony Bourdain Dead At 61

June 08, 2018 - 8:01 am
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STRASBOURG, France (WCBS 880/CBS News/AP) -- Chef, writer, and story teller Anthony Bourdain is dead at the age of 61, CNN has confirmed.

CNN reported Friday morning that Bourdain took his own life. He was found unresponsive Friday morning by friend and chef Eric Ripert near the French city of Strasbourg.

"It is with extraordinary sadness we can confirm the death of our friend and colleague, Anthony Bourdain," CNN said in a statement. "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. Our thoughts and prayers are with his daughter and family at this incredibly difficult time."

Police sources told French news agency AFP that the cause of death was hanging.

Bourdain achieved celebrity status after the publication in 2000 of his best-selling book "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. It was a rare crossover - a book intended for professional cooks that had enormous mass appeal.

Bourdain went on to achieve widespread fame thanks to his CNN series "Parts Unknown" - and was filming an upcoming segment for the program when he was found dead, according to CNN.

CNN chief executive Jeff Zucker sent a note to staff saying the circumstances of the death are still unclear but that "we do know that Tony took his own life."

"Tony was an exceptional talent. A storyteller. A gifted writer. A world traveler.  An adventurer. He brought something to CNN that no one else had ever brought before," Zucker said in the letter. "This is a very, very sad day."

Strasbourg police, emergency services and regional authorities did not immediately have information about the death. Bourdain's assistant Laurie Woolever would not comment when reached by The Associated Press.

In his travels, Bourdain has eaten everything from rotten shark to sheep testicles.

"Is there anything you won't eat?" CBS News' Anthony Mason asked Bourdain in 2016.

"I've eaten a lot of bad food, I've eaten a lot of putrefied food," Bourdain said. "It's when no one cares at all, that's soul-destroying. I mean, maybe I take it too seriously, but I will literally -- a really carelessly made burger by a large cynical large company, the contempt implicit in that transaction can really send me into a spiral of depression that will last for days."

CBS News Travel Editor Peter Greenberg emphasized the style and talent Bourdain brought to readers and viewers.

“Since his book came out 18 years ago – ‘Kitchen Confidential’ – he really helped to redefine what makes great travel writing, and he took us around the world and told the unvarnished truth, which is exactly what we want to hear. But he told it in a way that we could really learn from it and put in in context,” Greenberg said, “and the irony here, of course – and the sad irony – is that this is a man who is literally at the top of his game, and a show that I looked forward to watching – as a viewer, not just as a journalist – every single week.”

Greenberg also noted that Bourdain emphasized the value of travel as an adventure, rather than a junket.

“I mean, at his essence, you know, travel reporting is really great storytelling, and that’s what he did. He told stories in a way that made some people uncomfortable, but also painted a picture in a very real way,” he said. “You know, so much of travel journalism is promotional. So much of it is basically a bad brochure, and that’s clearly not what he did, and that’s his legacy. He put things in proper perspective, he gave us context, and at the essence of it, he was a great storyteller.”

Bourdain also showed how food is the common denominator for all of us, Greenberg explained.

“We all search for common ground, and he found one way to get it right away, and that started the conversation, and that’s really what we’ve lost so much in journalism today is the art of the conversation, and he found a way to take us around the world and maintain that conversation,” he said.

Bourdain lived on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond spoke to neighbors Friday.

At the East 94th Street building that Bourdain shared with his ex-wife and daughter, neighbors said he was friendly and easygoing.

His death and the death of designer Kate Spade with days of each other is sad, but not shocking, said Lesley Broadsky of the Upper East Side – who at 19 had her own suicide attempt after her fiancé died in an accident.

“I didn't see any light at the end of the tunnel. How long was I going to wait?” she said. “Every day is was miserable, so with hopelessness, you don’t see a way out.”

But Broadsky did find a way out through therapy. She said the deaths of such successful and famous people shows that depression does not discriminate.

“People think that if you commit suicide, you’re crazy, and you’re not crazy,” she said. “You’re just a broken person.”

Celebrity Chefs, fans and President Donald Trump were among those stunned and saddened by the news.

"I want to extend to his family my heartfelt condolences," Trump said.

Jamie Oliver wrote on Instagram that Bourdain "really broke the mould ... he leaves chefs and fans around the world with a massive foodie hole that simply can't be replaced." Chef Yotam Ottolenghi tweeted "Shocking and sad!" while Nigella Lawson tweeted she was "Heartbroken."

"Bourdain's exceptional writing made this one formerly picky, fearful eater very brave and want to try everything and I'll always be grateful for him and the worlds he opened," tweeted Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Television personalities Megyn Kelly and Stacy London offered condolences and urged those who needed help to contact suicide prevention hotlines.

Bourdain's death came three days after fashion designer Kate Spade killed herself in her apartment on Park Avenue on the Upper East Side. Spade's husband and business partner said the 55-year-old business mogul had suffered from depression and anxiety for many years.

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.

He mixed a coarseness and whimsical sense of adventurousness, true to the rock 'n' roll music he loved.

"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.

Besides showcasing food, a "Parts Unknown" trip to Japan in the series' first season included an odd show with robots and scantily clad women, a visit with a death metal band and a meal shared with a woman involved in the city's sadomasochistic community.

In 2016, he sat down for some bun cha in Hanoi, Vietnam, with President Barack Obama.

Bourdain was reluctant to analyze why his series succeeded.

"If you think about who the audience is and what their expectations might be, I think that's the road to badness and mediocrity," he told the AP. "You go out there and show the best story you can as best you can. If it's interesting to you, hopefully it's interesting to others. If you don't make television like that, it's pandering."

The American chef, author and television personality was born in New York City and was raised in Leonia, New Jersey. He had written that his love of food began as a youth while on a family vacation in France, when he ate his first oyster.

Bourdain said his youth was punctuated by drug use and he dropped out of Vassar College after two years.

Working in restaurants led him to the Culinary Institute of America, where he graduated in 1978, and began working in kitchens in New York City. He became executive chef at Brasserie Les Halles in 1998.

In the preface to the latest edition "Kitchen Confidential," Bourdain wrote of his shock at the success of his book, which he wrote by getting up at 5 a.m. to steal a couple of hours at the computer before appearing at the saute station for lunch.

He said he never intended to write an expose or to "rip the lid off the restaurant business." He said he liked the restaurant business the way it was.

"What I set out to do was write a book that my fellow cooks would find entertaining and true," he said. "I wanted it to sound like me talking at say ... ten o'clock on a Saturday night, after a busy dinner rush, me and a few cooks hanging around in the kitchen, knocking back a few beers and talking."

Bourdain said he really had no idea that anyone outside the world of chefs would even pay attention to his comments.

"The new celebrity chef culture is a remarkable and admittedly annoying phenomenon. While it's been nothing but good for business - and for me personally - many of us in the life can't help snickering about it," he wrote. "Of all the professions, after all, few people are less suited to be suddenly thrown into the public eye than chefs."

Bourdain's introduction to "Kitchen Confidential: Insider's Edition" was scrawled in his own hand in block letters - offering the sense of making it personal right away.

He wrote of the difficulty of long hours, hard work and poor pay, and said that one of the side benefits of his success was the ability to pay the rent. Yet there was more than a sense of wistfulness about times gone by.

CNN is currently airing the 11th season of "Parts Unknown," and Bourdain was in France shooting an episode for the 12th season. CNN said it has not made a decision yet on whether it will proceed with the current season

Bourdain was twice divorced and has a daughter from his second marriage. Funeral arrangements were not immediately available.

(© 2018 WCBS 880. CBS News and The Associated Press contributed to this report.)