New Oral Biography Remembers Anthony Bourdain

Source: The New Yorker

The food industry and cooking business had its fair share of a genius with exemplary skills in showcasing global cuisines and what happens in restaurant kitchens through various means. However, Anthony Bourdain was a man in his own league, and his many fans that spanned through different parts of the world never quite let go of the enigmatic personality and the gift of cooking that the world witnessed through him since his death in 2018. In Laurie Woolever’s new book Bourdain: The Definitive Oral Biography, Anthony Bourdain’s iconic impact, unapologetic approach and limitless worldview are explored to show the man’s real sides most honestly without fluff, needless adulations and idolizing.

The biography features thoughtful quotes from the chef’s inner circle and gives everyone the chance to spare some thoughts for the celebrated TV host and author. From Bourdain’s immediate family to his high school friends, kitchen staff, production team members and celebrity friends, the biography cuts across everything Bourdain represented and allows the reader to know who the man was and what he meant to people around him.

Woolever worked with Bourdain for nearly a decade. Talking to her about her experience documenting the life of such a complicated and beloved public figure gave new insights worth devouring.

Describing why she made the book an oral history, Laurie said, “Biography is a very specific form of literary art, and it’s not my skill set. I got the oral history idea from Dan Halpern, who worked with Tony as his editor. We took the route to deliver the story in a way that wouldn’t make the narrative a single one. I was in a good position to do the book because of the relationship I had with Tony and many of the people close to him who I interviewed as well.”

The interviews for the book started in August 2018, two months after Tony died and went on till February 2021. Laurie chronicled everything that happened when she worked with Anthony Bourdain and talked to all the people in his life at the time.

“I made sure to cover all bases from production crew members to family friends. His brother and first wife Nancy, also helped me connect with people from his childhood and his early years in New York kitchens,” she revealed.

Many of the conversations that the book recorded came from some of Tony’s closest associates, who had great stories to tell about the late chef and TV host. “I got some great stories from Rob and Web Stone, the two brothers that Tony worked with on his non-fiction writing projects. They were fun, and I got all the scoop about working with Tony and meeting with Robert De Niro. Many of the guys from the old kitchen days in the ‘80s from Kitchen Confidential also had great stories, and they told these stories that Tony had told before, and it was memorable hearing the stories from them.”

With the book garnering attention, Laurie Woolever has stated that her goal was to tell Anthony Bourdain’s story from the perspective of some of the most important people in his life. She did her part by collating them and now wants the public to have a peek into the man’s life to know him better.

Anthony Bourdain died by suicide in June 2018, and this new book shows a more complete picture of him. Laurie aimed to show more to the man behind the 6’4” man who looked great in a tux and showed parts of the world people never saw normally.

“There’s always much more that’s going on that doesn’t make the cut in a 46-minute episode, and that’s where the interesting stuff of humanity lies. So if someone uses this book as a way to dig deeper into their own understanding of things, it would be a really great thing,” Laurie said.

Bryan Smith

Bryan Smith has lived all his life in San Francisco and is currently a Senior Reporter. He has outstanding journalistic background. For the past 10 years, he has been breaking news stories and creating engaging content. He has been a leader in setting San Francisco's news agenda and reporting on the state for national audiences.

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