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‘Brilliant, fearless spirit’: Fans and friends mourn Anthony Bourdain, who died at 61

Anthony Bourdain was found dead in a French hotel room June 8 of an apparent suicide, according to CNN. (Video: Allie Caren/The Washington Post)

This post has been updated.

Anthony Bourdain, the chef who became a world-traveling storyteller, has died at age 61, according to CNN.

He died in France while working on an episode of his CNN show, “Parts Unknown.” Bourdain was found unresponsive in his hotel room by a close friend, chef Eric Ripert, on Friday morning, CNN said. The cause of his death was suicide.

In a statement, the network said:

“It is with extraordinary sadness we can confirm the death of our friend and colleague, Anthony Bourdain. His love of great adventure, new friends, fine food and drink and the remarkable stories of the world made him a unique storyteller. His talents never ceased to amaze us and we will miss him very much. Our thoughts and prayers are with his daughter and family at this incredibly difficult time.”

Bourdain was best known for his travel shows, in which he told the stories of people and cultures around the world through the food they ate. “Parts Unknown” was the latest in that series. Since premiering in 2013, the program has won five Emmy awards, and a Peabody.

Obituary: Anthony Bourdain, celebrity chef and roguish culinary adventurer, dies at 61

Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain dies at 61

Chef Anthony Bourdain holds his daughter Ariane in Miami Beach. (Lynne Sladky/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

As news of Bourdain’s death spread on Friday morning, those who knew him and his work reacted with sadness and shock.

“Anthony was a dear friend,” Ripert told the New York Times. “He was an exceptional human being, so inspiring and generous. One of the great storytellers of our time who connected with so many. I wish him peace. My love and prayers are with his family, friends and loved ones.”

Italian actress Asia Argento, who had been Bourdain’s longtime girlfriend, said in a statement posted on Twitter: “Anthony gave all of himself in everything that he did. 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. My thoughts are with his family. I would ask that you respect their privacy and mine.”

Anthony Bourdain was the best friend I never had

In 2016, President Barack Obama dined with Bourdain in Hanoi for an episode of the program. They sat on plastic stools in a family-run restaurant, eating bun cha, a dish special to Hanoi.

“I think it’s very sad. I want to extend to his family my heartfelt condolences,” said President Trump as he left the White House Friday morning. “I enjoyed his show. He was quite a character.”

In an age of celebrities, Anthony Bourdain fought for the underdog

The tributes from famed chefs and others touched by Bourdain’s work flooded Twitter.

“You still had so many places to show us, whispering to our souls the great possibilities beyond what we could see with our own eyes,” chef José Andrés tweeted. “You only saw beauty in all people. You will always travel with me.”

In recent months, Bourdain had emerged as an ally for the #MeToo movement, as his girlfriend, Argento came forward to accuse disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein of rape. He acknowledged that he had contributed to the restaurant industry’s “meathead culture” and promoted the stories of Argento and other women.

How Anthony Bourdain became one of the strongest #MeToo allies: ‘I’m reexamining my life’

Bourdain’s suicide comes days after designer Kate Spade’s, which has prompted mental health and suicide prevention organizations to urge individuals to reach out.

“We’re saddened to hear of the tragic loss of Anthony Bourdain,” the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline posted on social media. “Please know you are never alone, no matter how dark or lonely things may seem. If you’re struggling, reach out: call 1-800-273-TALK (8255). We’re here for you, 24/7/365.”

“It’s also important to know warning signs and risk factors for suicide, that way you can better support others,” reads a tweet from the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Those warning signs include making threats or comments about killing oneself, social withdrawal and increased alcohol and drug use.

Suicide prevention: Texting, calling and noticing warning signs

Bourdain was already a cultural phenomenon before moving to CNN. “Parts Unknown” was preceded by “No Reservations,” on the Travel Channel. But it was Bourdain’s writing that first cemented his place as a storyteller.

His 1999 New Yorker article, “Don’t Eat Before Reading This,” brought readers into the New York kitchens where Bourdain worked for years. A year later, the article became the best-selling book “Kitchen Confidential.”

In 2002, as Bourdain became an international celebrity, he explained in a live Washington Post chat what it was like to move from “chef” to “celebrity chef.

“No one’s more confused by the celebrity chef thing than chefs. The idea that chefs are sex symbols would be hilarious to anyone who’s ever dated one or been married to one,” Bourdain wrote. “We smell of smoked salmon and garlic, we have beef fat under our fingernails, we stay out late, drink too much, are never home and when we are home are comotose [sic], distracted and unpleasant. Is that sexy?”

Bourdain also became a vocal advocate for Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, who was imprisoned by Iranian officials for 544 days. Rezaian’s forthcoming memoir was acquired by Bourdain, who had an imprint with Ecco, a division of HarperCollins.

The CNN host interviewed Rezaian and his wife, journalist Yeganeh Salehi, in Iran for a 2014 “Parts Unknown” episode. Weeks later, the couple was arrested.

“This wonderful couple is a danger to no one,” Bourdain wrote in a Post column at the time. “They are nobody’s enemy. They are without blame or malice.”

Although Bourdain was a celebrity chef, he was also known for drawing out and telling the stories of other people.

“What I do is not complicated,” Bourdain told the New York Times in 2005. “Any stranger who shows an honest curiosity about what the locals think is the best food is going to be welcomed. When you eat their food and you seem happy, people sitting around a table open up and interesting things happen.”

John Wagner contributed to this report. 

Read more:

How Anthony Bourdain went from CNN’s biggest risk to its most unexpected star

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