Anthony Bourdain died on Friday of an apparent suicide, with the news of his passing quickly spreading after it was discovered. Word soon reached Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi, who was filming the Bravo show's 16th season in Kentucky, and told People that she was "devastated" and "shocked" by Bourdain's death.
The celebrated chef had appeared on Top Chef numerous times throughout its history as a guest judge, and Lakshmi shared that "everyone" she's spoken to has been "deeply affected" by Bourdain's death.
“It’s obviously hard on all of us,” Lakshmi said. “He was great on Top Chef. He brought a breath of fresh air and a new energy and made it his own. He was very much himself. He made me laugh the whole time. He was like a swashbuckling pirate that just out of nowhere landed onto our judges table.”
Reminiscing about Bourdain, Lakshmi recalled his sense of humor and noted that he "didn’t take himself very seriously."
“He definitely had this mischievous rebel side to him. He always had a twinkle in his eye. You could tell he was winding up to say something really funny and really off color,” she said. “He’s one of the wittiest people I’ve ever known, and I’ve known some pretty witty folks. He was whip-smart. Because he was so funny, he often got away with a lot of his commentary.”
She added that the two bonded over their daughters, as Lakshmi is mom to Krishna, 8, and Bourdain's daughter, Ariane, is 11.
“As you know, Tony could be rough and rash … [But] I remember Tony could be really tender and sweet as well,” Lakshmi said. “There were times when he would just take Krishna and bounce her on his knee. He was great like that. He was a guys’ guy, but also a champion of women. He stepped up for the underdog. And often the underdogs in the kitchen are women.”
Bourdain was found dead in his hotel room in France by close friend and fellow chef Eric Ripert. The two were in the country to work on an episode of Bourdain's CNN show, Parts Unknown, which sees Bourdain travel the world to learn about various local cuisines and those who create them.
Reflecting on her friend's legacy, Lakshmi shared that while he was famous for his food, his interest in others was a massive part of his appeal.
“The reason people loved him and watched him travel around the world was that he had an innate curiosity about other people and other cultures,” she said. “He had an uncanny ability to see the humanity in everyone, whether he could identify with them or not. He made us understand that food is about more than physical sustenance — it’s also about what connects us emotionally. He wanted to connect with the world and connect us to each other.”
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