Anthony Bourdain’s brother and friends recalled the moment they heard the celebrity chef had taken his own life and the days after his shocking death.
Chris Bourdain and several of the “Parts Unknown” host’s friends spoke to GQ magazine about receiving the devastating news on June 8 that Bourdain had hanged himself in the bathroom of his French hotel. At the time, Bourdain was in Kayserberg filming a “Parts Unknown” episode with friend Eric Ripert, who found 61-year-old’s body that morning.
Doug Quint, a close family friend, told GQ about the call from Bourdain’s estranged wife Ottavia Busia that summer night.
“I heard my phone going off in the middle of the night, and it was a text from Ottavia saying, ‘He's killed himself, and I wanted you to know before the news came out,’” Quint is quoted as saying in GQ's “The Last Curious Man.” “I [drove] to O'Hare and went to their house. The whole morning, I was sitting head down, making sure I didn't look at the TV. It's just so f---in' lousy,” he recalled.
“It feels like you're speeding into a black hole,” the Big Gay Ice Cream co-owner said.
Quint also spoke about Bourdain’s 11-year-old daughter, Ariane, and her reaction to her father’s death.
“That day, Ariane said to me something like, ‘Is this something that people outside of New York are gonna know about?’ And we were like, ‘Yeah. All around the world, people are sad about this.’” he said. “Telling her that made me realize, Jesus, God, this is world news. He changed lives around the world.”
Lydia Tenaglia, who helped produced several of Bourdain’s shows, said hearing the news was like being hit with a “giant f---ing frying pan.”
“I don't think it was a shock that one day we would get a call. It was like, ‘Okay. Maybe we should prepare ourselves that one day Tony's either gotten into a plane crash, or ﬂipped on an ATV, had a heart attack,’” Tenaglia said.
“But we didn't expect that call. It's like someone's just hit you with a giant f---ing frying pan,” she added.
Philippe Lajaunie — the owner of Les Halles in New York City where Bourdain was previously the executive chef — said he was in a small Vietnam village where he and Bourdain “would have stopped on the way” during a trip when he saw the news flash across his cellphone screen.
“I heard my phone ding, with news, and I learned from the A.P. or Reuters that he had just killed himself. It could not have been a better place, and it could not have been a worse place,” the restaurant owner recalled. “It was exactly the place we would have been together. And so it was eerie.”
In the days following Bourdain’s death, fans placed notes and items on the now-shuttered Les Halles’ gate to pay tribute to the chef. Chris Bourdain said he’s kept all the notes.
“I have in my possession the notes that people put up on Les Halles. I have them at the house. There was one woman who drove up from f---ing Tennessee,” Bourdain’s brother said about the chef’s impact on people.
He continued, “Some dude took the back of an envelope to find some blank white space to write on, and he stuck it onto the glass at Les Halles with a Band-Aid. He wrote this personal, heartfelt little thing and then stuck it on with a f---ing Band-Aid.”
Friends and family also shared memories they had with Bourdain prior to his death. Ripert, who declined to talk about Bourdain’s final days with GQ, said his late friend “never complained about anything.”
“That was something that struck me about Tony. You could be hours in a car, or you could be in freezing weather, or you could be in a room with very unpleasant people, and Tony would not complain, ever,” he said.