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You Could Own Anthony Bourdain’s Most Prized Kitchen Knife, for About $6,000

Proceeds from the auction will go to Bourdain’s family and his alma mater, the Culinary Institute of America

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Anthony Bourdain smiles into the camera.
More than 200 of Anthony Bourdain’s personal belongings will be up for auction in October.
Photo by Mike Pont/WireImage

Fifteen months after the death of beloved food-world icon Anthony Bourdain, a collection of more than 200 of his personal belongings will be auctioned off in October, the New York Times reports. Forty percent of the proceeds from the auction will be donated to Bourdain’s alma mater the Culinary Institute of America and its newly established Anthony Bourdain Legacy Scholarship, which provides grant money to students who pursue a study-abroad or a global cuisines program. The remainder of the proceeds will go to Bourdain’s wife, Ottavia Busia-Bourdain (they were separated at the time of his death), and their daughter, Ariane.

The collection of items for sale — which includes a custom Bob Kramer steel and meteorite chef’s knife, expected to fetch the highest price of the set, per the Times — reflects Bourdain’s taste for elegance and culture. “He valued comfort, and he knew what looked good,” Laurie Woolever, Bourdain’s longtime personal assistant and collaborator, told the Times.

A chef’s knife with a certificate of authenticity.
Custom Bob Kramer steel and meteorite chef’s knife (estimated: $4,000–$6,000)
Photo courtesy of Lark Mason Associates

In addition to the knife, lots that will be available in the online auction include:

  • A mid-century Peter Lovig Nielsen desk, which Bourdain used to write
  • Original typed manuscript or early draft for Bourdain’s novel turned film Bone in the Throat
  • A script for The Simpsons episode “The Food Wife” (in which Bourdain made a guest appearance as himself), with signed inscriptions to Bourdain
A diptych of a duck press and a metallic sculpture of the Michelin man.
Left: Chrome duck press (estimated value of $200–$300). Right: A sculpture of the Michelin Man (estimated value of $150–$200).
Photo courtesy of Lark Mason Associates
  • Chrome duck press from the Paris episode of The Layover
  • A silver and bronze sculpture of the Michelin Man
  • A jacket with a special patch, a gift from the U.S. Navy after the U.S.S. Nashville helped evacuate Bourdain from Beirut after the 2006 Israeli-Lebanese conflict broke out
  • Artworks by Brad Phillips, John Lurie, Ralph Steadman
  • Vietnamese blue-and-white ceramic vase
  • Various books and records

Auctioneer Lark Mason, known for his appearances on PBS’s Antiques Roadshow, estimates that the total market value of the collection is between $200,000 and $400,000. Some of the estimated prices seem curiously affordable: for example, Peter Lovig Nielsen teak flip-top desks similar to Bourdain’s are currently listed for several thousand dollars on e-commerce site 1stdibs, compared to the $800–$1,200 estimated market value that Lark Mason Associates assigns to Bourdain’s.

A painting of blue sky and leaves with a figure’s silhouette.
The painting “The sky is falling. I am learning to live with it.” by John Lurie (estimated value: $1,000–$2,000)
Photo courtesy of Lark Mason Associates

Meanwhile, paintings by musician and artist John Lurie that were originally sold to Bourdain for $19,000 each, according to the artist, are listed in the auction with the estimated value of $1,000–$2,000 each. On Twitter, Lurie expressed anger, writing, “They were two of my favorites and I would not have let them go if they were not to Anthony. Now they are up for auction and expected to fetch $1000 to $2000 … They are going to completely devalue my work.”

A spokesperson for Lark Mason Associates, when reached for comment, said that the auction house uses previous sales as a baseline to deliberately set “conservative estimates” on all the items, with full knowledge that the market will decide the final price. Per the spokesperson: “In Lurie’s case, they are confident the prices will greatly surpass the estimates, having already received several inquiries.”

Update: September 19, 2019, 5:31 p.m.: In response to a request for comment about the auction, which features two of his paintings, the artist John Lurie provided the following statement:

Anthony bought two paintings. One of them (“The sky is falling. I am learning to live with it”) was something I recently finished, and it was kind of a favorite. I don’t usually let the new favorite go. A collector in Japan offered me $25,000 for it, but I said no. Then, when Anthony wanted it, I was happy to let him have it for less money. He knew I was reluctant to let it go and sent me this email:

Thanks, John.

I will love and look after your paintings like adored children for the rest of my life—and after.

Thank you for everything.

So it was kind of this beautiful thing between the two of us. Selling paintings can be a creepy thing — this was the opposite of that.

Lurie continued his statement, referencing the New York Times, which had referred to the artist as a “downtown Manhattan celebrity” in its article about the auction today, and a 2010 profile by New Yorker staff writer Tad Friend, which Lurie disputed and called “a work of fiction”:

What happened with the New York Times today was quite painful. First, it opened the wound of Anthony, specifically because Anthony would have understood how upsetting what the Times did was for me. He is the only person who understood how devastating a New Yorker article from 2010 was for me, without me bringing it up or explaining. This never happened with anyone else. So the one person I would have called today about the Times article was Anthony, and he is not here.

But my work cannot be estimated at $1,000, and I am not a “downtown Manhattan celebrity.” At least until I marry a Kardashian, which I don’t see happening soon.