But Mr. Zimmern had some indication that perhaps there was more going on.
“Things on the surface never seemed to add up or make sense,” he said.
“We have lost someone who was in my opinion the sharpest and keenest observer of culture that I have ever known,” he said. “When we were alone his hopes and dreams extended into amazing areas.”
Anthony Michael Bourdain was born June 25, 1956, the oldest son of Pierre Bourdain, who was an executive in the classical-music recording industry, and Gladys Bourdain, who was a longtime copy editor at The New York Times. He grew up outside New York City, in Leonia, N.J., and his parents exposed him to fine cuisine, taking him often to France.
Mr. Bourdain graduated from high school in 1973 and attended Vassar College, dropping out after two years, where he spent long nights drinking and smoking pot. “I was — to be frank — a spoiled, miserable, narcissistic, self-destructing and thoughtless young lout,” he wrote in “Kitchen Confidential.”
But before he left Vassar for a chance at a culinary career, he met Nancy Putkoski, who would become his first wife. Mr. Bourdain spent a summer in Provincetown on Cape Cod with some friends. There, he started working as a dishwasher at a seafood restaurant and closely watched the cooks, men who dressed like pirates, with gold earrings and turquoise chokers. “In the kitchen, they were like gods,” he wrote.
The experience solidified his determination to make cooking his life’s work.
“I saw how the cooks and chefs behaved,” Mr. Bourdain told The Times in 1997. “They had sort of a swagger, got all the girls and drank everything in sight.”
He then enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America in 1975 and graduated in 1978, stepping away at times to work at restaurants in Greenwich Village in Manhattan. He started at the bottom in the kitchen hierarchy, with stops at the Rainbow Room, the W.P.A. restaurant on Spring Street and Gianni’s at the South Street Seaport. He reached the top in the 1990s, becoming an executive chef at Sullivan’s, the restaurant next to the Ed Sullivan Theater on Broadway, and at Les Halles.