New York Times bestseller
An unprecedented behind-the-scenes view into the life of Anthony Bourdain from the people who knew him best
When Anthony Bourdain died in June 2018, fans around the globe came together to celebrate the life of an inimitable man who had dedicated his life to traveling nearly everywhere (and eating nearly everything), shedding light on the lives and stories of others. His impact was outsized and his legacy has only grown since his death.
Now, for the first time, we have been granted a look into Bourdain’s life through the stories and recollections of his closest friends and colleagues. Laurie Woolever, Bourdain’s longtime assistant and confidante, interviewed nearly a hundred of the people who shared Tony’s orbit—from members of his kitchen crews to his writing, publishing, and television partners, to his daughter and his closest friends—in order to piece together a remarkably full, vivid, and nuanced vision of Tony’s life and work.
From his childhood and teenage days, to his early years in New York, through the genesis of his game-changing memoir Kitchen Confidential to his emergence as a writing and television personality, and in the words of friends and colleagues including Eric Ripert, José Andrés, Nigella Lawson, and W. Kamau Bell, as well as family members including his brother and his late mother, we see the many sides of Tony—his motivations, his ambivalence, his vulnerability, his blind spots, and his brilliance.
Unparalleled in scope and deeply intimate in its execution, with a treasure trove of photos from Tony's life, Bourdain: The Definitive Oral Biography is a testament to the life of a remarkable man in the words of the people who shared his world.
Celebrated chef and author Anthony Bourdain (1956–2018) cuts a charismatic yet enigmatic figure in this kaleidoscopic oral history. Woolever (Appetites), Bourdain's longtime assistant and coauthor, interviewed 91 friends, relatives, chefs, editors, publishers, and producers to chart his rise from hard-living New York chef (Bourdain and co-workers, who did heroin together, would "turn their heads and throw up into garbage cans" while working on the line, a former colleague reports) to bestselling author with his restaurant tell-all, Kitchen Confidential, and host of the culinary travel shows No Reservations and Parts Unknown, and his death by suicide in 2018. Many of the recollections are retrospectively colored by Bourdain's bleak end, and interviewees' efforts to locate an inchoate darkness within him—"I saw in him this desire to be somehow swept away into the oblivion" says a former Parts Unknown cinematographer—yield little insight. The book does, however, succeed as a revealing account of the making of a celebrity, following Bourdain as he crafted a mediagenic persona—"he published Kitchen Confidential, and he never came off book tour," observes an editor—that was brash, profane, articulate, empathetic, and seemingly wide open to new experiences and adoring fans, yet perpetually distanced. This fascinating mosaic doesn't unearth Bourdain's inner demons, but it does capture the inimitable legacy he left behind.
Very moving, terrific read
Worth every penny.
Wish it never had to be written.
Wish you were here.