It's hard not to hang on Anthony Bourdain's every word. He's gone from a chain-smoking line cook to a best-selling author, and then from a celebrity chef to a globe-trotting television host, filling up passport pages at breakneck speed while broadcasting it all to the world on his smash-hit CNN series Parts Unknown. Throughout it all, the straight-talking Bourdain has retained an endearing humility that's made him the fantasy BFF of basically every food obsessive in America (and beyond). In a new interview with Biography.com, Bourdain talks about life before — and after — becoming famous, the writing process, and drug addiction.
On life before Kitchen Confidential propelled him to fame: "I was in horrible, endless, irrevocable debt. I had no health insurance. I didn’t pay my taxes. I couldn’t pay my rent."
On the writing process behind his first book: "With Kitchen Confidential, I just didn’t give a shit at all what people might think. I didn’t think anyone was going to read it, so what did it matter. I just told the truth on every page."
On writers who inspire him: "It’s useful to pick up an Elmore Leonard novel to see how a real professional does it. Nobody gets in and out of a scene cleaner, quicker, or better than that guy."
On his former drug addiction: "All I can tell you is this: I got off of heroin in the 1980s. ...There are a lot of guys that didn’t get that far."
On how different his life is post-fame: "To climb a dune in the Egyptian desert and look out over the desert as the moon’s rising, surrounded by friends that I work with, a belly full of some food that no one outside that time zone ever gets to experience, that’s a 'pinch me' moment for sure."
On living a "charmed life": "I should’ve died in my 20s. I became successful in my 40s. I became a dad in my 50s. I feel like I’ve stolen a car — a really nice car — and I keep looking in the rearview mirror for flashing lights."
If you or anyone you know is considering suicide or self-harm or is anxious, depressed, upset, or needs to talk, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text the Crisis Text Line at 741-741. For international resources, here is a good place to begin.