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Bourdain: The Definitive Oral Biography

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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 im 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.


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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 im 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.

30 review for Bourdain: The Definitive Oral Biography

  1. 5 out of 5

    Michael Hicks

    I'm not the type of guy that goes gaga for celebrities or obsesses over them, but Anthony Bourdain was a rare exception to that rule. I connected with him over the course nearly two decades of television between No Reservations, The Layover, The Taste, and Parts Unknown, not to mention his books, Kitchen Confidential and Medium Raw. (I have, but have not yet read, his comics, which include two volumes of Get Jiro and Hungry Ghosts.) I share a birthday with his death day, and remember waking up t I'm not the type of guy that goes gaga for celebrities or obsesses over them, but Anthony Bourdain was a rare exception to that rule. I connected with him over the course nearly two decades of television between No Reservations, The Layover, The Taste, and Parts Unknown, not to mention his books, Kitchen Confidential and Medium Raw. (I have, but have not yet read, his comics, which include two volumes of Get Jiro and Hungry Ghosts.) I share a birthday with his death day, and remember waking up the morning of June 8, 2018 to the news that he had hung himself in a French hotel while filming his CNN series. I've never really mourned or grieved the loss of a celebrity before, at least not in anyway beyond a superficial, "Man, that sucks, it's a shame they won't be making any more movies or books or music" kind of way. Bourdain's suicide hit me hard, though, and even though I did not know him, it hit with me all the force of a lost friend or relative. Honestly, I'm still not over this loss, or the loss of what could have been given Bourdain's talents and potential. The fact of the matter is that, although I didn't know him, I kinda-sorta did. We all did. I had invited him into my home every week for years. I shared meals with the man. He introduced me to people and places I could not otherwise know. I sipped on hot coffee or glasses of whiskey while he told me stories of life as a line-chef or shared his irrational fear of the Swiss. While we didn't share addictions, we both certainly shared common ground in terms of mental health issues, which often led to dark jokes and wry, negatively-charged observations from each of us. Anthony Bourdain possessed a level of authenticity and honesty that was impossible to ignore, and he meant a lot to a lot of people around the world who never really knew him. Reading Bourdain: The Definitive Oral Biography, it's clear that those impressions were hardly a fluke. The line separating Bourdain the person from Bourdain the TV character was narrowly thin. While there were certainly differences between who he was and what he allowed himself to reveal in front of the TV camera, what you saw or read was largely who he really was. A brilliant writer, a charismatic and funny host, a lover of food and travel and people, constantly curious and knowledgable, narcissistic but also incredibly self-aware, one of the coolest cats around but a giant nerd at heart, an introvert in many ways, but one who could command the attention of an entire room and made himself the center of that attention and who gave his time selflessly to those around him. A former heroin addict, Bourdain was constantly finding and feeding new addictions to keep him clean, from travel to jiu jitsu, and romantic obsessions that he knew were doomed, such as his love affair with Asia Argento. Writer and editor Laurie Woolever was Bourdain's personal assistant, his lieutenant, for over a decade and co-authored Appetites: A Cookbook and World Travel: An Irreverent Guide with him. For The Definitive Oral Biography, she interviewed over 90 people that knew Bourdain at various points of his life, including his brother, Christopher, his mother, Gladys (who passed away in 2020), ex-wives Nancy and Ottavia, daughter Ariane, and those who worked closest with him, such as producer-director for Zero Point Zero Production, Helen Cho and Tom Vitale (whose own book about working and traveling with Bourdain, In the Weeds: Around the World and Behind the Scenes with Anthony Bourdain, releases in September), Bourdain's literary agent Kimberly Weatherspoon, chefs José Andrés, Nigella Lawson (who co-hosted The Taste with Bourdain), Eric Ripert, and Roy Choi, as well as David Simon and Eric Overmyer, the cocreators of the HBO series, Treme, for which Bourdain wrote, movie director Darren Aronofsky, CNN reporters Anderson Cooper, Christiane Amanpour, and president of CNN worldwide, Jeff Zucker, and many, many, many more. Through all these various personalities, we're given an incredibly well-rounded, and, more importantly, honest, portrait of the late Bourdain, the good, the bad, and the ugly. As Woolever notes in her introduction, this biography is far from a hagiography and makes no attempts to deify the man it's about, just as Bourdain no doubt would have wanted. There's no sugar-coating the lesser aspects of Bourdain's personality, his addictions, or the questionable decisions he made along the way, including his toxic relationship with Argento and his final choice to commit suicide at the age of 61 in a Le Chambard hotel room. Even a year or two removed from Bourdain's death, you can feel the shock and grief and confusion in the words of those interviewed as they continue to struggle with the emotional fallout and process his reasons and behavior during the last year of his life as he was consumed by his affections and infatuation for Argento, a relationship that Bourdain was keenly aware was doomed to fail right from the start, telling friends, "It's gonna end so badly." Neither Bourdain or Argento come across particularly well in the accountings and recollections compiled here of that time, with the latter almost appearing as a virtual hurricane that upended Bourdain's life and wreaked devastation upon those closest to him, while Bourdain himself kowtows to the Italian actresses demands at the expense of his own long-term personal and professional relationships, and, ultimately, seemingly, his own mental health and well-being. Bourdain: The Definitive Oral Biography is a wide-ranging exploration of the man's life and larger-than-life legacy from those who knew him best. It's not always a pleasant read, particularly in the build-up to, and exploration of the aftermath of, his suicide, but for fans of the man hoping for a peek behind the curtain it certainly is a necessary read, for better or worse.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ruth

    At nearly 500 pages and with multiple interviews and insights from 91 different people who were important in his life at some point during his 61 years, this is the definitive biography of Anthony Bourdain, Contributors include his brother Chris, his mother Gladys, his wild and crazy guy friends who encouraged him to live carelessly, serious girlfriend Paula Froelich, his ex-wives Nancy and Ottavia. His daughter Ariane speaks about her father eloquently and lovingly. Many peers- journalists, che At nearly 500 pages and with multiple interviews and insights from 91 different people who were important in his life at some point during his 61 years, this is the definitive biography of Anthony Bourdain, Contributors include his brother Chris, his mother Gladys, his wild and crazy guy friends who encouraged him to live carelessly, serious girlfriend Paula Froelich, his ex-wives Nancy and Ottavia. His daughter Ariane speaks about her father eloquently and lovingly. Many peers- journalists, chefs, television producers- have plenty to add to who they percieved Bourdain to be. And the most common refrain was that nobody really knew Tony. Parts of the book within some interviews reflected upon loneliness in a situation where one is beloved by the world but not at peace inside. The rigors of constant travel, airports, hotels, setting up scenes to produce his various shows, and the toll it took on Bourdain. The depth and helplessness of his depression is very evident. The final section of the book in which Asia Argento, his last girlfriend, dominates his life is especially troubling. Someone equates it to Yoko Ono in a Beatles recording session. But it was clear that Tony Bourdain changed, more troubled and depressed, after meeting her and claiming to be deliriously in love. A very profound book. Many thinks to NetGalley and the publisher for ARC.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Julie Yashur

    I am big fan of Anthony Bourdain and was extremely sad hearing of his passing. Therefore, I was very happy to have won this book in a goodreads giveaway. The format of this book takes a little getting used to because the author is including short stories from friends and colleagues about Anthony.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Since I will never read a new book of Tony's again, this is the next best thing - a comprehensive portrait of the man by those who knew him best. It is, thankfully, not a hagiography - he was no saint. I'm also glad that the focus is not on his death but him as a person and, mostly, the twenty years of his life after Kitchen Confidential. The parts that are "missing" I'm glad are missing - there is nothing from Eric Ripert about his final days and his girlfriend at the time of his death is not i Since I will never read a new book of Tony's again, this is the next best thing - a comprehensive portrait of the man by those who knew him best. It is, thankfully, not a hagiography - he was no saint. I'm also glad that the focus is not on his death but him as a person and, mostly, the twenty years of his life after Kitchen Confidential. The parts that are "missing" I'm glad are missing - there is nothing from Eric Ripert about his final days and his girlfriend at the time of his death is not included at all. Ariane, his daughter, has the closing reflection of the book, a fitting tribute to her dad. For the past three years we've been searching for his voice as we all navigate through this crazy world and I finally feel like I can stop looking - he's gone, and this book will help everyone appreciate him, but acknowledge that there will never be another like him and for his fans, we just need to take his message, "be a traveler not a tourist" to heart and travel in his memory and finally say goodbye.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Bourdain: The Definitive Oral Biography is the story of the life of Anthony Bourdain as told through interviews with his family, closest friends, and colleagues. The book cover his early years, his success with the publishing of Kitchen Confidential, his life on television with No Reservations and Parts Unknown, and the parts of his life that were not as much in the public eye. Each person interviewed details the impact Bourdain had on their life along side telling his story. This book is so good Bourdain: The Definitive Oral Biography is the story of the life of Anthony Bourdain as told through interviews with his family, closest friends, and colleagues. The book cover his early years, his success with the publishing of Kitchen Confidential, his life on television with No Reservations and Parts Unknown, and the parts of his life that were not as much in the public eye. Each person interviewed details the impact Bourdain had on their life along side telling his story. This book is so good, it is just so so good. The format of the book is a really great way to tell this story; the reader will feel like they are in conversation with each person being interviewed. I loved the incredible honesty presented in the book, even when it was not an easy or pretty story to tell. Readers unfamiliar with Bourdain will learn a lot about his life, and fans of Bourdain will appreciate the deep look into his life and the impact that he had on so many people. As to be expected, this book is not an easy read at times, so be prepared for the intense subject matter. I highly recommend this book for any reader with an interest in the life of Anthony Bourdain. Thanks to Netgalley and Ecco for this ARC; this is my honest and voluntary review.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    A fascinating look at the life of Bourdain by those who (could) know him best. As the book (and subject) ricocheted towards its conclusion, it was difficult to keep my enthusiasm up knowing the lonely ending that was coming. So, hoist up a glass of something good, pair it with good food, blast tunes you like and remember the Anthony Bourdain that you first fell in love with because, like that saying about sausage being made… well, you know where I am going with that.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Tracie

    The author definitely did her research. I haven't read any of the other books by or about Anthony Bourdain. This seems to be a detailed portrayal of his early life, writing Kitchen Confidential, and the No Reservations and Parts Unknown TV shows. Nice to hear all the different points of view from friend and family who were interviewed. The author definitely did her research. I haven't read any of the other books by or about Anthony Bourdain. This seems to be a detailed portrayal of his early life, writing Kitchen Confidential, and the No Reservations and Parts Unknown TV shows. Nice to hear all the different points of view from friend and family who were interviewed.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kim McGee

    Anthony Bourdain was a creative genius which usually comes with a dramatic presence, explosive personality, perfectionism and high energy. He fit most of that persona and was able to contribute to a multitude of projects over his lifetime. This book is based on interviews organized by his friend and long time co-writer. Tony is well represented by family, friends and people he worked closely with covering a variety of personal memories and a variety of venues. If you are a fan or wonder what dro Anthony Bourdain was a creative genius which usually comes with a dramatic presence, explosive personality, perfectionism and high energy. He fit most of that persona and was able to contribute to a multitude of projects over his lifetime. This book is based on interviews organized by his friend and long time co-writer. Tony is well represented by family, friends and people he worked closely with covering a variety of personal memories and a variety of venues. If you are a fan or wonder what drove his relentless energy - this is a great choice and companion read to his other books. My thanks to the publisher for the advance copy.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Suzy Davies

    Refreshing, Bitter-Sweet, Memorable. The Recipe: Carefully peel back the layers of a life lived to the full. Remember the twist. The layers are fluid, bitter, and sweet. Always serve chilled. Remember, bartending is a kind of show business. You need an audience. Serve this cocktail in the sunshine. Serve it at sunset. Stirred, not shaken. The Negroni was purported to be Bourdain’s favorite drink; it so reminds me of the deceptive simplicity of the man. What you saw was what you got. Yet, his person Refreshing, Bitter-Sweet, Memorable. The Recipe: Carefully peel back the layers of a life lived to the full. Remember the twist. The layers are fluid, bitter, and sweet. Always serve chilled. Remember, bartending is a kind of show business. You need an audience. Serve this cocktail in the sunshine. Serve it at sunset. Stirred, not shaken. The Negroni was purported to be Bourdain’s favorite drink; it so reminds me of the deceptive simplicity of the man. What you saw was what you got. Yet, his personality was somehow elusive. When you put the man and his life into words, something seems to escape, something not quite captured. Perhaps this is because now, following the tragic circumstances of his death, peers, colleagues, family, friends, and journalists can talk about the man, but not to him, face to face. The Book: Journalist and author, Laurie Woolever has written an authoritative oral biography about Bourdain which generates as many questions as it does answers. In black and white there are many colors. But it is in the voice that we hear all the variations, the nuances. This was something Bourdain himself understood very well. Woolever interviewed 91 people for her book, and inevitably there are contradictions as well as many common threads. But this is the beauty of the thing. The man remains an enigma. We gain insights into his early childhood, his outsider or pirate mentality, his fierce loyalty to team members, and his quiet generosity towards people and causes that fired him up. We get the sense that he was flamboyant and shy, even socially awkward. He could be difficult and prickly. He had charm. We feel his restlessness and dissatisfaction, perhaps with the mundane wife and kids kind of existence he may have had. And here is the paradox. Perhaps, Bourdain wanted this more than anything, but his driven personality, his obsessions, including his drug habits, his sense of living life in the fast lane before his luck changed, meant that although we saw him as “one of us” he was a one-off. People like Bourdain with his talent and charisma are rare. What I understand from Woolever’s pursuit of the truth about this ever-changing man, is that it was a feat to get anywhere close to the man he was. Woolever has done just this. Thanks go to the publisher for the paperback review copy.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Carlson

    I got this book from the Giveaway mostly out of curiosity. I had watched No Reservations but aside from that I didn't really know much about Anthony Bourdain outside of the show. My sister had read some of his books, but I hadn't yet. Overall I quite liked this book but I did have one main complaint about it: and it involves some of the editing. As it's interviews from people that personally knew him they discuss a myriad of topics and aspects of his life. But the way that the writer edits the int I got this book from the Giveaway mostly out of curiosity. I had watched No Reservations but aside from that I didn't really know much about Anthony Bourdain outside of the show. My sister had read some of his books, but I hadn't yet. Overall I quite liked this book but I did have one main complaint about it: and it involves some of the editing. As it's interviews from people that personally knew him they discuss a myriad of topics and aspects of his life. But the way that the writer edits the interviews together sometimes has the interviewees talking about things that haven't been fully introduced yet so someone who doesn't know what and/or they're talking about already it takes a bit to follow along. Especially involving the book Kitchen Confidential. The author is assuming that the reader has read the book, which I hadn't. It will have someone who is mentioned as being "so and so from Kitchen Confidential" and I could tell that this person or this restaurant was supposed to mean something to me and they didn't. So I learned quite a bit about him which was certainly part of the point of reading the book but if you are a neophyte be advised that there are a couple of parts that may confuse you.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Robin

    Told in the format of interview snippets from friends, colleagues, and family of Anthony Bourdain, this is an in-depth look at his personal and professional lives. Because it was told from so many points of view, there was a bit of repetition but ultimately it was a fascinating look at a complicated man although no one ever seemed to know him. This is due to be published in late September and at the same time a book by Bourdain's long-time TV producer/director, Tom Vitale, In the Weeds: Around t Told in the format of interview snippets from friends, colleagues, and family of Anthony Bourdain, this is an in-depth look at his personal and professional lives. Because it was told from so many points of view, there was a bit of repetition but ultimately it was a fascinating look at a complicated man although no one ever seemed to know him. This is due to be published in late September and at the same time a book by Bourdain's long-time TV producer/director, Tom Vitale, In the Weeds: Around the World and Behind the Scenes with Anthony Bourdain is being published. If you are a fan of Bourdain, read them both as each gives a different perspective of Tony and In the Weeds gives more details about the making of the TV shows (No Reservations, Layover, and Parts Unknown). Thanks to HarperCollins for the advance reading copy.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Teri

    I think the author hit on a genius way to publish a biography that requires minimal writing talent; just use quotes from other people. It actually works very well for those with a short attention span; the reader, that is. I actually liked the style for this particular book. For me it was fascinating forming a psychological profile of Anthony Bourdain gleaned from all the viewpoints of people in his life. Thanks to NetGalley for a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Pastel

    I won an ARC in a Goodreads giveaway. This is going to be for many readers a way to meet their hero, in a raw, holistic, and painful way. Filled with stories from the people who knew Bourdain day in and day out (and sometimes from too great a distance), this is a full, intense, weird picture of a man in all his good and bad glory.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Linda Smatzny

    I received this book for free from the First Reads program on Goodreads. I read while hurricane Ida approached, came ashore and left the state of Louisiana. Each chapter is about a different event/time in the life of Anthony Bourdain. It is the impressions of the people who worked and knew Mr. Bourdain at various stages of his life. The book is well written.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Konet

    a well written and concise biography of the life of Anthony Bourdain; not limited to just his cooking genius but his travels to enjoy the culinary world. A great biography about a masterful chef, I enjoyed his Kitchen Confidential. Highly recommended. Thanks to Netgalley, Laure Woolever and Ecco for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Available: 9/28/21

  16. 5 out of 5

    Barbara White

    I felt as though I were a fly on the wall when these conversations were taking place. I heard it all, and saw it all. For Anthony Bourdain fans, this is a must read. Thanks to Goodreads First Reads for my copy of Bourdain:.....

  17. 4 out of 5

    Karen R.

    Heartbreak all over again…a wonderful history of Mr. Bourdain, told by many different people who were fortunate enough to know him. I always felt he was deeply empathetic and insightful, and this book only reinforces this. A must read.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Susan Walker

    Great book about the life of Anthony Bourdain. The book was written by his assistant and contains many interviews of those who knew him best.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Melinda Owens

    Really enjoyed reading this book. I enjoyed hearing the different perspectives from all of his friends and family.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Niklas Pivic

    My big review of this book is found here. My big review of this book is found here.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Heather

  22. 5 out of 5

    Shannon Kate

  23. 5 out of 5

    Bridgette Fodale

  24. 4 out of 5

    GONZA

  25. 5 out of 5

    celtic bookgirl

  26. 4 out of 5

    Luke

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jeannie

  28. 4 out of 5

    Fgxkzkd Hdjdudi

  29. 4 out of 5

    Dani

  30. 5 out of 5

    Gabi Powell

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