Anthony Bourdain – high cuisine and low life



Anthony Bourdain, the celebrity chef and writer, has died, apparently from suicide by hanging in France while on a TV shoot. Born 25 June 1956 in New York, he described himself as a ‘feral child’, a torment to his parents. He developed a drug habit as a teenager which blossomed later into an addiction to heroin, coke and LSD.  His food shows were travelogues and he spoke and wrote with alarming and foul-mouthed frankness – what AA Gill called ‘Elizabeth David written by Quentin Tarantino’.

He turned stomachs with descriptions of what really happened in restaurant kitchen; staffed on the whole by “people for whom something in their lives has gone terribly wrong … wacked-out moral degenerates, dope fiends, refugees, a thuggish assortment of drunks, sneak thieves, sluts and psychopaths”.

The Telegraph obit said: ‘Bourdain was a superb writer combined an evocative and quotable prose style with an almost pathological honesty about both the restaurant business and his own life, especially his battles with addiction.’ He said: “I don’t eat mussels in restaurants, unless I know the chef personally”; brunch “old, nasty odds and ends”; hollandaise “a veritable petri-dish of biohazards”. He denounced vegetarians and “their Hezbollah-like splinter-faction, the vegans” as “the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit, an affront to all I stand for, the pure enjoyment of food.”

He was a Sun Cancer (good for all matters domestic) trine Mars in Pisces which in turn squared Mercury in Gemini, giving him a forthright way of expressing himself. His super-confident Jupiter Pluto in Leo was in a tough-minded square to an obsessive Saturn in Scorpio; and he probably had an Aquarius Moon opposition Uranus square Neptune which would make him highly-strung, quite fanatical at times – and a focal point Neptune is also escapist.

He’s been struggling this year with tr Pluto in a depressed conjunction to his Mars/Saturn midpoint, though not exact at the moment; also tr Neptune opposition his Sun/Saturn which would exacerbate uncertainty and a tendency to depression. What’s most obvious is his Moon, Uranus, Neptune T Square being triggered by tr Uranus in hard aspect and his Solar Arc Saturn square and Solar Arc Jupiter Pluto conjunct his Neptune. This would bring instability, lack of emotional balance, confusion.

His get-it-together 5th Harmonic was strongly aspected; as was his ‘seeking soul’ 7H which can tend to addictions and escapism; as well as his self-defeating 10H and 16H.

22 thoughts on “Anthony Bourdain – high cuisine and low life

  1. Good point, Tara. While a left-leaning vegan, I’m very conservative and traditional in other ways. With veganism going more and more mainstream and all the food options out there today, I think stereotyping re diet choices will become a thing of the past.

  2. Hi Robert, not too long before the end, I guess he would have been pretty frail..

    I don’t think a birth time is available for Ian, do you know if anyone has rectified the chart? I’d do it myself but I dont have the skills…we can only wonder what JD might have evolved into had he stuck around, the first and only two albums are stone classics, they would have conquered the planet I suspect…

    • Dear Alex,

      I don’t think he was physically and mentally strong enough, to record another album with JD.
      His health was very rapidly declining at an alarming rate. I doubt he would have made it to
      thirty, sad to say. The self-destruct impulse was already present, and something else would
      have triggered it off. All pure speculation, of course thirty-eight years later….

      Interestingly enough, Ian and Anthony were huge fans of Iggy Pop, another remarkable
      talent who has survived against all odds through a lifestyle which beggars belief.
      Mind you, Ig is very tough indeed. An astro-chart on him would be fascinating.

  3. Robert may I gently correct you? The great Ian Curtis was born on 15th July 1956. One advantage of knocking on in years is that I saw some of the great bands, and was lucky enough to see Joy Division in 79 ( and New Order subsequently)…bloody fantastic….the astrology of suicide would be an interesting read I think….thanks Marjorie

    • Alex,

      You are correct re Ian’s date of birth, my error.

      I also saw Joy Division at London University on Friday 8th February 1980, supported by Killing Joke. What a night!
      Even then, I thought Ian wouldn’t be able to maintain his intense style of performing although he
      was magnificent. He seemed incredibly frail. Little did we all know about the desolate reality of the

      As for Anthony, he was a class act. Another talent destroyed by the grey fog of depression.

  4. A great talent.

    Not only was Anthony a great cook, but his novels fiction and non-fiction were superb.
    A one-off maverick who will be greatly missed.

    By an eerie coincidence, Anthony was born ten days after Ian Curtis, the gifted but short-lived
    vocalist of Joy Division who also committed suicide by hanging aged only 23 in May 1980.

  5. The contrasting attitudes between vegans and carnivores is interesting to me. Vegans can (admittedly) be very preachy/sanctimonious, while meat-eaters often become strangely hostile at the mere mention of veganism. My cousin’s husband–an avid hunter–gives me a withering look of sheer hatred and the silent treatment whenever I’m around him. What people eat and don’t eat seems to have become something of a political issue. Agree that it should be each to his own. And yes, Anthony Bourdain was a nice and very talented guy.

    • I know, I find the whole vegan/carnivore polarity thing really odd with people on both sides becoming quite aggressive towards each other. I don’t eat meat because I don’t like it, never have. But I honestly doesn’t give a toss if someone is a carnivore – each to their own. I like watching ‘Mountain Men’ just to marvel at the way of life, the freedom and the incredible dedication and skill, and intimate knowledge of nature and animals it takes to be a successful hunter.

      This is terribly sad for this man and his loved ones – three suicides of successful and renowned individuals in just the last week. RIP.

    • Do you think there is a lefty, hippy, lentil-weaving, duffle coat and sandals stereotype that persists about vegetarians with some people? I think some people associate it with a certain left political leaning. Completely ridiculous of course, but I think this is one undercurrent. At the other extreme end of the scale there is sanctimonious snobbery about the perceived ignorance of others, perhaps also tainted with some political stereotyping. In general, extremists seem to latch onto a grain of truth and block out all other angles. I can’t decide if more people have become lazy about complexity or if there is some sort of strong, forceful desire for something to believe in.

  6. I was very saddened when I heard the news of Anthony Bourdain’s tragic suicide. I was also horrified by the way he killed himself; I can’t begin to imagine how slow and painful his death must have been – since he apparently hung himself.

    My Mother was the one who broke the news of Bourdain’s suicide yesterday; she was visibly upset. In our house, my parents and I have been watching Anthony Bourdain’s many travel / culinary documentary series since 2002 – including: A Cook’s Tour (2002-2003), No Reservations (2005-2012), The Layover (2011- 2013), and his most recent series called Parts Unknown (2013- ) on CNN. My Mother even read Bourdain’s book A Cook’s Tour: In Search of the Perfect Meal some years back.

    All in all, Anthony Bourdain was a “household name” for us. We’re all very saddened that he chose to end his life.

    Chris Romero
    Jacksonville, Florida

  7. Not an argument I really want to stir up, except to ponder – moral arguments about factory farming/antibiotics etc aside – on the fact that plant eating species (cows, horses etc) have very different digestive systems to humans. We started out as hunter gatherers and meat as well as plant eaters.
    I do wonder though about the toxicity of the debate which seems to be ramping up. Love Bourdain’s phrase about the Hezbollah-splinter faction – he had a wicked way with words. Why do people get so exercised about my way being the only way? One thing I do know about health and diet is that what suits one person doesn’t suit another. And that extends to feeding dogs, cats and racehorses as well. Different biochemistry, different glandular systems means finding out what suits and sticking to it.

    • OK – try #2.

      I’m all-for whatever diet works for individuals. Diet for a Small Planet was popular in its time. But to be sanctimonoous about vegetables-only … riles the temper and riminds me of Born-agains and their better-than-thou attitudes. There is a splinter factoin in Oregon which promotes “abandoning washing, bathing, and brushing teeth” toward being back-to-nature. They stink to high-heaven; who would want to kiss a woman or man who hasn’t brushed their teeth in weeks? Same with having sex with someone who hasn’t bathed in weeks or months? Ewww. Ick.

  8. Solaia: I certainly wasn’t suggesting that a vegan diet is some sort of panacea for all ills, including depression. Your brother’s weight loss is alarming, but I don’t think it has anything to do with his vegan diet. Vegan cooking can pack on the pounds as much as a carnivorous, dairy-based diet. Bourdain was extremely hostile toward vegans in several of his speeches, which I felt was unnecessary, to say the least. Nowhere in my post did I say or imply that becoming a vegan is “a magic pill for happiness.” I believe–through personal experience–that it can enhance physical health. Not sure about any mental health benefits.

  9. OK, this was a hard hit for me. Incidently, the last of his shows I saw was one where he visited the grave yard his forefather was buried at in Paraguay. My husband who loves food and loves industry exposé genre followed Anthony Bourdain since “Kitchen Confidential” came out. “No Reservations” started showing here just when we’d moved in together, and it became almost a religious watch for us. We’d look out for places (positively) featured in the show when we travelled. We even decided to drive from Paris to Brittany for a few days thanks to his show. We had our 1st wedding anniversary dinner at a (not too) fine dining restaurant he featured. The best dinner I’ve ever had, just as Tony had described it. For our Babymoon, my husband spent considerable time looking for the “secret” place Tony had “cacio e pepe” at in Rome

    In the recent years, I watched “Destination Unknown” more sporadically. But then I had Anthony Bourdain’s name coming up as Asia Argento’s “boyfriend”. I read about how supportive he’d been of Asia, who has been gaslighted in two countries for two decades. He also was working on a story on sexual harassment at restaurant world at one point. I already knew he had very acute social consciousness. But it was beautiful to see that he actually cared for hurdles women have to face at working life.

    In all, while not really surprised this happened – he went to some dark places in his life -, I am shocked and already miss his programmes.

  10. Absolutely agree with you, Kitty. I’ve been vegan for 20 years and enjoy great health and energy. Vegan cuisine is delicious. I don’t miss meat at all. In fact, the mere thought of it grosses me out. Bourdain didn’t look well–florid complexion, watery eyes, etc. I admired his talent and am shocked by the nature of his untimely demise, but I think he could have done himself a favor by at least sampling vegan cooking. His extremely fixed, derogatory attitude re veganism reminds me of the scientific community’s resolutely negative attitude toward astrology. How can anyone categorically dismiss something they’ve never tried or explored? Don’t mean to be preachy……just wanted to offer my two cents worth.

    • Julie, you never watched the show, either, I gather. He did eat vegan food all over The World and did find it delicious. He was not against Vegan food, but the often selfrighteous Western Veganism. Also, I’m afraid, present in your message about how being Vegan makes YOU look and feel great and fixes everything.

      Well, it doesn’t, in many cases. My brother is Vegan for ethical reasons. He is severly underweight (he is 6’3 and in his late20’s, so quick metabolism), and is literally drinking food oil to keep going. He has also been suffering of depression (diagnosed) for 8 years. Becoming Vegan almost 3 years ago hasn’t fixed that. He is battling that depression. He also told me he had to stop looking for Vegan info online, because of the hostility in online communities. Now, he has been online, gaming and discussing politics since his early teens. He told me he has never met more judging people than on those communities.

      Becoming Vegan can be a sound ethical choice, but it’s not a magic pill for happiness.

  11. Well, let’s hope he comes back in the next life understanding how veganism could have given him a much better/humane view of life

    • So, Kitty, what have you personally done lately for people picking your avocados? I can say Anthony Bourdain did a lot, constantly talking for underpriviledged people putting your food on your table.

      Another thing vegans who stopped reading him after one joke 10 years ago probably didn’t understand is that he was against (food)snobbery in general. Not veganism, as such. He would not have laughed at Jain people or people whose diet is mainly vegan for other cultural reasons. But he hated snobbery.

Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: