Bourdain: The Definitive Oral Biography - book cover
Arts & Literature
  • Publisher : Ecco
  • Published : 28 Sep 2021
  • Pages : 464
  • ISBN-10 : 006290910X
  • ISBN-13 : 9780062909107
  • Language : English

Bourdain: The Definitive Oral Biography

New York Times bestseller

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.

Editorial Reviews

"[Woolever's] book is the first to begin to reveal [Anthony Bourdain]: It's the most splintered, fractal, and complex portrait of the star that has yet emerged, an enormous compendium of individual observations gathered from 91 people who knew him, including his mother, his brother, his ex-wives and his daughter, friends from school and college, ex-girlfriends, fellow chefs, writers, editors, and television colleagues." -- Maria Bustillos,

"Woolever herself stays at arms length, to powerful effect, giving her cast of characters room to air their Bourdain grievances, both petty and life-altering, and unroots some rather profound conclusions-almost Parts-Unknown-narration-level profound-about the man." --

"Laurie Woolever, a writer and editor who was Anthony Bourdain's longtime assistant, uses quotes to bring readers deeper into his world. . . . Through details shared by his friends and family, we learn more about Bourdain's kind heart, how much he wanted to be a writer, his habit of fidgeting when he was uncomfortable, and the dark world he inhabited, especially when traveling." -- Food & Wine

"Bourdain: The Definitive Oral Biography is a tribute to how [Anthony Bourdain] and his legacy live on." -- The Week

"A fascinating account…Bourdain's fans will find it impossible to put down." -- Booklist

"An unfiltered study of Bourdain's life, as seen by the people closest to him. . . . Woolever compiles the perspectives of Bourdain's friends and family about the way [his] professional experiences impacted him, including during his tumultuous final year. . . . Any Anthony Bourdain fan, of which there are many, will enjoy this thoughtful tribute to an impactful cultural figure." -- Library Journal

Readers Top Reviews

This read gave me insight into the complex persona he was. Troubled genius without the ability to seek meaningful help. The book gave an insiders view of the complexities of Anthony. I will miss him.
If you are a Bourdain fan, this is definitely worth reading. You get great insights in his early years, off-screen life and personality. It is based on many interviews that are loosely organized in thematic chapters.
Nigel Costin
The author interviewed literally hundreds of people for this biography. As such, you learn quite a bit about him. Having said that, there was quite a difference between the public persona and the private individual. Also no one really knew him completely which is wht it was such a shock when he committed suicide.
Anna V. CarrollBrian
It isn't difficult to figure out why so many people loved this guy! Tony Bourdain was the secret person we all wanted to be. The adventurer, the traveler, the rebel, the person who thought of life as a Korean Salad Bar. Something there for all of us to savor. Why? Why did we lose him? This book has left me twisted in knots from emotions. I have all of his cookbooks and his novels. Thoroughly enjoyed them all. In his 70's and 80's he would have become a Sage, a wonderful, descriptive and much-read author. He would have fussed over the boys his beautiful, cherished daughter brought home. "Why are you taking HIM to Senior Prom?" He did not get to walk her down the aisle, or wait impatiently outside the Delivery Room for his grandchildren to be born, or watch them grow up, teach them to cook, take them to visit some of his favorite places on Earth, and sit back and be proud of his marvelous life. I ran into him one sunny, warm day in front of the 42nd Street Port Authority here in Manhattan. He walked past me, lanky, handsome, rugged Tony Bourdain, and it took me a few seconds to recognize him and speak. "Mr. Bourdain?" He stopped, turned around, big smile, "Hi," he said, extending his hand to shake mine. Me? I am 80 next birthday so I must have been in my early 70's at the time. All five feet of me was energized standing there on the dirty NYC sidewalk talking to Anthony Bourdain! What did I talk about? His biography of Typhoid Mary! "You read that?! Oh Wow!" Thanked him for defending this poor woman whose name has gone down in history in the most negative way possible. It was a long conversation. Then I remembered I had someone waiting for me at the end of the block and cheerfully thanked him for his time and walked away. Elated. Delighted. My friend, a pastry chef, went ballistic when I told her why I was late. "WHO!!!! Just now!!!! I hate you!" It was quite a lunch. What world-renowned celebrity would have stopped and talked to a perfect stranger? Correct me if I'm wrong, but I have met many famous people in my life and none of them would have done that. That's who he was. That is why the world loved him. He was real. He was the guy you grew up with and went to school with. I would have never made the grade because I am passionately anti-drugs of any kind. I saw what they did to my close friends in the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. Turned them into paranoid, risk-taking strangers. Like Tony during his worst times on drugs. Hundreds of pages of thoughts and memories from his close friends, family, working associates. Some names were missing, but they will never give interviews about what part they played on that fateful day he decided he had had enough. He had done it all. No more mountains to climb. He had lived life to the fullest and savored each meal. Yes, he could have stuck around to watch his daughter gr...

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