Anthony Bourdain, Chef, Travel Host and Author, Is Dead at 61

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.”

[Read more: Last year, Mr. Bourdain offered his advice for what to take when traveling and what to avoid.]

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 at Vassar, he met Nancy Putkoski before he left school for a chance at a culinary career. 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.”

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