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'It's A Huge Loss': Friend Mourns Anthony Bourdain


It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm David Greene. We are all still processing the news this morning that celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain has died. He was 61 years old. CNN has reported his death as a suicide. Bourdain traveled the world as the Emmy-winning host of the cable network program "Parts Unknown." But long before that, he got his start in the kitchen as a dishwasher. And he spoke with the NPR program Fresh Air about that in October 2017.


ANTHONY BOURDAIN: It was very hard work. You had to be there on time. There were certain, absolute rules. And for whatever reason, I responded to that. It was a mix of chaos but also considerable order that I guess I needed at the time.

GREENE: Michael Ruhlman is a food writer, a cook and a friend of Anthony Bourdain. And he joins us from Chicago. Mr. Ruhlman, deepest sympathies for losing your friend.

MICHAEL RUHLMAN: Thank you. I think we're all shocked.

GREENE: Yeah, truly. I mean, what went through your mind when you learned of this?

RUHLMAN: We just touched down in Chicago. My wife showed me her phone with the news. And it's like a blow. I mean, it's like somebody gutted you right there. I couldn't believe it. It's hard. And the outpouring of grief and support and condolences attests to the extraordinary reach of this man, who once found himself sitting at 95th and Broadway selling paperbacks for drug money, and turned himself into a hero, both in the cooking world and the literary world. It's a huge loss.

GREENE: He was open - right? - about his struggles with addiction in the past and, you know...

RUHLMAN: Part of what was - yeah. Part of what was so wonderful and amazing about him was his honesty. He was honest about everything, and he asked that of you. I have to say, the most important thing to me that - about Anthony, besides his extraordinary intelligence, was his loyalty to the people around him and the people he worked with. I feel most grief for them. They were so close to him, his crew. And he was a loyal friend. I feel so bad for Eric Ripert, the chef of Le Bernardin.

GREENE: Who was in France with him, right? Yeah.

RUHLMAN: Yeah. They were filming.

GREENE: I just think about how he inspired so many of us in the journalism world. And there's something about when you are vulnerable, it makes people want to be honest and vulnerable to you. And I wonder, I mean, do you see that as really one of his many marks?

RUHLMAN: He did have a capacity for drawing people out. And it was because they sensed that there was no BS here. He wouldn't have it. He cut straight to what was important. He was articulate. He was funny. He was a really funny guy. He was just the kid in the back row cracking jokes. But he was so smart and so good, and that's why he succeeded as he did.

GREENE: All right. Michael Ruhlman is an author and was a friend of the celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, who we're sad to report died at the age of 61. CNN is reporting his death as a suicide. Again, we are thinking about you and all the many friends of Anthony Bourdain this morning, Mr. Ruhlman. Thank you.

RUHLMAN: Thank you.

[POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: We say Anthony Bourdain spoke with Fresh Air in October 2017, but the conversation was actually in October 2016.] Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: June 13, 2018 at 11:00 PM CDT
We say Anthony Bourdain spoke with Fresh Air in October 2017, but the conversation was actually in October 2016.