Bourdain: The Definitive Oral Biography Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
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.
Featuring the voices of Adam Epstein Alex Getmanov Alex Lowry Alison Mosshart Amy Entelis Ben Selkow Beth Aretsky Bonnie McFarlane Chris Collins Christiane Amanpour Christopher Bourdain Daniel Halpern Dave McMillan David Choe David Rosenthal Diane Schutz Eileen Opatut Fred Morin Helen Cho Helen Lang Hilary Snyder James Graham Jared Andrukanis Jason Rezaian Jeff Allen Jeff Formosa Jeff Zucker Joe Coleman Joel Rose John Lurie José Andrés Josh Ferrell Karen Rinaldi Kimberly Witherspoon Laurie Barnett Laurie Woolever Lenny Mosse Lizzie Fox Lolis Elie Lydia Tenaglia Maria Bustillos Matt Goulding Matt Walsh Michael Ruhlman Michael Steed Mike Ruffino Morgan Fallon Mustafa Bhagat Nari Kye Natasha Phan Nathan Thornburgh Nick Brigden Nigella Lawson Panio Gianopoulos Pat Younge Patrick Radden Keefe Patti Jackson Peter Meehan Philip Lajaunie Rennik Soholt Rob Stone Robert Vuolo Robin Standefer Roy Choi Sally Freeman Sam Goldman Sam Sifton Sandy Zweig Shant Petrossian Steven Tempel Todd Liebler Tom Vitale W. Kamau Bell Web Stone Whitney Ward Yeganeh Rezaian Aspen Miller Barbara Rosenblatt Billie Fulford-Brown Cheryl Smith Dan Bittner Ewan Chung Gabra Zackman George Newbern Hillary Huber James Lurie Jason Culp Jean Brassard Joe Knezevich Oliver Wyman Rob Shapiro Roger Wayne
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|Listening Length||11 hours and 28 minutes|
|Narrator||Laurie Woolever, Christopher Bourdain, José Andrés, Nigella Lawson, W. Kamau Bell, full cast|
|Audible.com Release Date||September 28, 2021|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #5,592 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#8 in Biographies of Culinary Professionals
#48 in Culinary Biographies & Memoirs
#156 in Biographies of Celebrities & Entertainment Professionals
Top reviews from the United States
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Reading Bourdain: The Definitive Oral Biography, it's clear that those impressions were hardly a fluke. The line separating Bourdain the person from Bourdain the TV character was narrowly thin. While there were certainly differences between who he was and what he allowed himself to reveal in front of the TV camera, what you saw or read was largely who he really was. A brilliant writer, a charismatic and funny host, a lover of food and travel and people, constantly curious and knowledgable, narcissistic but also incredibly self-aware, one of the coolest cats around but a giant nerd at heart, an introvert in many ways, but one who could command the attention of an entire room and made himself the center of that attention and who gave his time selflessly to those around him. A former heroin addict, Bourdain was constantly finding and feeding new addictions to keep him clean, from travel to jiu jitsu, and romantic obsessions that he knew were doomed, such as his love affair with Asia Argento.
Writer and editor Laurie Woolever was Bourdain's personal assistant, his lieutenant, for over a decade and co-authored Appetites: A Cookbook and World Travel: An Irreverent Guide with him. For The Definitive Oral Biography, she interviewed over 90 people that knew Bourdain at various points of his life, including his brother, Christopher, his mother, Gladys (who passed away in 2020), ex-wives Nancy and Ottavia, daughter Ariane, and those who worked closest with him, such as producer-director for Zero Point Zero Production, Helen Cho and Tom Vitale (whose own book about working and traveling with Bourdain, In the Weeds: Around the World and Behind the Scenes with Anthony Bourdain, releases in September), Bourdain's literary agent Kimberly Weatherspoon, chefs José Andrés, Nigella Lawson (who co-hosted The Taste with Bourdain), Eric Ripert, and Roy Choi, as well as David Simon and Eric Overmyer, the cocreators of the HBO series, Treme, for which Bourdain wrote, movie director Darren Aronofsky, CNN reporters Anderson Cooper, Christiane Amanpour, and president of CNN worldwide, Jeff Zucker, and many, many, many more.
Through all these various personalities, we're given an incredibly well-rounded, and, more importantly, honest, portrait of the late Bourdain, the good, the bad, and the ugly. As Woolever notes in her introduction, this biography is far from a hagiography and makes no attempts to deify the man it's about, just as Bourdain no doubt would have wanted. There's no sugar-coating the lesser aspects of Bourdain's personality, his addictions, or the questionable decisions he made along the way, including his toxic relationship with Argento and his final choice to commit suicide at the age of 61 in a Le Chambard hotel room. Even a year or two removed from Bourdain's death, you can feel the shock and grief and confusion in the words of those interviewed as they continue to struggle with the emotional fallout and process his reasons and behavior during the last year of his life as he was consumed by his affections and infatuation for Argento, a relationship that Bourdain was keenly aware was doomed to fail right from the start, telling friends, "It's gonna end so badly." Neither Bourdain or Argento come across particularly well in the accountings and recollections compiled here of that time, with the latter almost appearing as a virtual hurricane that upended Bourdain's life and wreaked devastation upon those closest to him, while Bourdain himself kowtows to the Italian actresses demands at the expense of his own long-term personal and professional relationships, and, ultimately, seemingly, his own mental health and well-being.
Bourdain: The Definitive Oral Biography is a wide-ranging exploration of the man's life and larger-than-life legacy from those who knew him best. It's not always a pleasant read, particularly in the build-up to, and exploration of the aftermath of, his suicide, but for fans of the man hoping for a peek behind the curtain it certainly is a necessary read, for better or worse.
[Note: I received an advance copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley.]
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 grow up and become the remarkable person she will become, but he was wrung out. I knew in my gut, the first time I saw him with that actress she was a propane tank that could explode at any moment. She had that aura. She had a certain reputation. My pastry chef friend and I both agreed this was not a smart move. And we didn't even know them!
I remember the feeling I had when the radio reporter announced his death. It was the same feeling I had the afternoon they reported the death of Robin Willliams. Ice pick in the chest. Hard to breathe. Chills. Head spinning. WHAT?! WHO?! Not Anthony Bourdain! Suicide? No way! I called my pastry chef friend and we both cried on the phone for a half hour. There were parts of this book where I cried anew. What a damn waste!
This book is so needed, so necessary, so wanted by all the people who adored him like I did. This book will become more appreciated as time goes by and new generations discover him for the first time. New men and women wanting to become chefs, or travel the world to learn about other cultures, will use this book as a primer on how to do it. I am so thankful she wrote it.
I thank him again for stopping on that Manhattan sidewalk to talk to an elderly lady who thought he was the best. My last words to him were: "I love you to death!" He tilted his head, smiled and said, "You are so sweet. Thank you." No, Mr. Bourdain, thank you!