Anthony Bourdain has been one of the most ubiquitous TV food personalities of the past decade, and his exploits have helped transform food travel shows from staid tourist trap-praising drivel into witty, hard-hitting explorations of lesser-known local haunts. It’s common knowledge that the chef has battled substance abuse and first rose to fame as the author of the memoir Kitchen Confidential, but there are plenty of other facts that you might not know about this “culinary bad boy.”
1. He Was Born in New York City, but Grew Up in Jersey
Bourdain’s father was a classic music executive for Columbia Records, and when Anthony was a child his family moved to Leonia, New Jersey. He attended Vassar College for two years before dropping out.
2. He Married his High School Sweetheart
Bourdain and high school girlfriend Nancy Putkoski married in the 1980s, and remained together for 20 years. Bourdain’s extensive travels were cited as the reason for the split.
3. He Fell in Love with Food in France
While vacationing in France as a child, Bourdain ate his first oyster on a fisherman’s boat. He claims in Kitchen Confidential that this experience kindled his love for food.
4. He was a Guest on Molto Mario
Bourdain made his television debut as a guest on an episode of Mario Batali’s Molto Mario, sitting with two other guests to the side of Batali. Even though the guests were encouraged to chat with Batali, Bourdain didn’t say a single word.
5. He left the Food Network over Ferran Adrià
Bourdain was enjoying success as host of Food Network’s A Cook’s Tour, and wanted to travel to Spain in order to spend an episode highlighting the works of elBulli’s head chef, Ferran Adrià. The network refused, citing budgetary concerns and higher ratings for domestic shows, so Bourdain left the network and his producers formed their own production company, Zero Point Zero Productions, who filmed it anyway. It became the pilot for his most successful show, No Reservations.
6. He Likes Barefoot Contessa
While Ina Garten might seem like the last person Bourdain would be a fan of, he actually really likes her show. “Every time I stumble across her show, she is cooking food correctly by my way of thinking,” he told Grub Street. “If she is roasting a chicken or making mashed potatoes, she’s doing them really, really, really well.”