Anthony Bourdain, whose madcap memoir about the dark corners of New York’s restaurants made him into a celebrity chef and touched off a nearly two-decade career as a globe-trotting television host, was found dead on Friday at 61.
Mr. Bourdain spent two decades in restaurant kitchens, at first shucking oysters and cleaning dishes in a Cape Cod seafood shack and later serving high-end meals in Manhattan, before accepting a friend’s offer to fly him to Mexico if he agreed to write a novel. It was the start of a second act as an author and then a host, redefining the staid genres of food writing and food-tourism shows with an inquisitive but profane bad-boy image that endeared him to fellow chefs, restaurant-goers and travelers.
Mr. Bourdain was found dead in his room at Le Chambard, a luxury hotel in the village of Kaysersberg in the Alsace region of eastern France, according to a prosecutor in the nearby city of Colmar. The prosecutor, Christian de Rocquigny du Fayel, said the cause of death was hanging. “At this stage, we have no reason to suspect foul play,” he said.
Mr. Bourdain had traveled to Strasbourg in France, near the country’s border with Germany, with a television production crew to record an episode of his show “Parts Unknown” on CNN, the network said. “It is with extraordinary sadness we can confirm the death of our friend and colleague,” CNN said in a statement.
Mr. Bourdain became a TV star after becoming a star author with “Kitchen Confidential” (2000), his ribald restaurant tell-all. (It was less-successfully translated into a sitcom by Fox.)
“Kitchen Confidential” has sold over a million copies in paperback and remains the defining memoir in the field. “His prose voice was instant and unmistakable,” said Dan Halpern, the HarperCollins editor who became Mr. Bourdain’s friend, fellow eater and literary collaborator. “You can read out any sentence and know instantly who wrote it.”
That was a boom time for food television, and Mr. Bourdain could easily have had a crowd-pleasing media career trading on his bad-boy image. His first show, Food Network’s “A Cook’s Tour,” based on his second book, was a kind of extreme travel diary of wild eating experiences.
But with his Travel Channel series, “No Reservations,” and later, CNN’s “Parts Unknown,” Mr. Bourdain began producing something more like a combination of cultural journalism and personal essay.
Encountering the world’s food meant encountering the world. A 2006 trip to Beirut was interrupted by war between Israel and Hezbollah, which became part of the show. He began to focus less on swanky tourist destinations and more on visiting out-of-the way locations and trouble spots.
In 2011, “No Reservations” went to Haiti, which was recovering from a devastating earthquake. The resulting episode was remarkable and layered, examining not only the nation’s poverty — reflected, as it often is, by dishes that are the result of getting by ingeniously with little — but also whether the show itself was contributing to the problem by engaging in misery tourism.
He didn’t have an easy answer. That was one thing that made him such a good journalist. He accepted that he didn’t already know everything, he assumed that he might make a mistake, he went into every encounter believing that people had something to teach him, and the world.
Mr. Bourdain famously appeared with President Barack Obama on an episode of “Parts Unknown” in Vietnam in 2016. Over grilled pork, noodles and beers at a restaurant in Hanoi, they discussed Vietnamese-American relations, Mr. Obama’s final months in office and fatherhood.
For the past two years, Mr. Bourdain had been dating the actor Asia Argento. “Anthony gave all of himself in everything that he did,” Ms. Argento said Friday on Twitter. “His brilliant fearless spirit touched and inspired so many, and his generosity knew no bounds. He was my love, my rock, my protector. I am beyond devastated.”
Ms. Argento, 42, said in a lengthy story in The New Yorker that she endured multiple attacks and manipulation by Mr. Weinstein, and that he sexually assaulted her in a hotel room years ago, when she was 21.
She said she had left her native Italy and moved to Berlin to escape the tension and victim-shaming culture she said she experienced at home.
Last month, she gave a speech at Cannes that stunned the room. “In 1997, I was raped by Harvey Weinstein here at Cannes,” Ms. Argento said. “This festival was his hunting ground.”
In an interview with IndieWire this month, Mr. Bourdain called her speech a nuclear bomb.
“I was so proud of her. It was absolutely fearless to walk right into the lion’s den and say what she said, the way she said it. It was an incredibly powerful moment, I thought. I am honored to know someone who has the strength and fearlessness to do something like that.”
Mr. Bourdain continued speaking out boldly on the subject of sexual abuse and harassment, taking on everyone from Alec Baldwin to the chef Mario Batali, who is under investigation for sexual assault charges. Several women have come forward and described repeated incidents in which they said Mr. Batali had subjected them to groping, unwanted kisses or sexual propositions.
When news of Mr. Batali’s plans to attempt a comeback were exposed, Mr. Bourdain kicked down the idea.
“Retire and count yourself lucky,” Mr. Bourdain, a longtime friend of Mr. Batali’s who had not spoken with him recently, said. “I say that without malice, or without much malice. I am not forgiving. I can’t get past it. I just cannot and that’s me, someone who really admired him and thought the world of him.”