Anthony Bourdain’s 14-year-old daughter Ariane has opened up about her touching relationship with her late father in a new biography, recalling how they would watch Ratatouille together and make the French stewed vegetable dish just like the characters in the animated film.
Ariane and her mother, Bourdain’s second wife Ottavia Busia-Bourdain, were among several of the chef’s family and friends who were interviewed by his longtime assistant Laurie Woolever for her book Bourdain: The Definitive Oral Biography.
Bourdain was launched to stardom with the publication of Kitchen Confidential, his memoir about life as a chef in New York’s restaurant scene, and he went on to explore the world while hosting his many food and travel series.
However in June 2018, the world was left reeling after Bourdain took his own life – a tragedy that is explored in the new biography, for which Woolever spoke to several of his closest friends and family, including some who weighed in on his ‘obsessive’ love affair with Italian actress and director Asia Argento, and the impact it had on the chef during the final years of his life.
In an excerpt from the book published by Vanity Fair, Busia-Bourdain said Bourdain could be ‘impulsive,’ but she noted he was also ‘very levelheaded’ when it came to making decisions that would affect her or Ariane’s well-being.
‘As a dad, he was always the good cop,’ she explained. ‘I think it was fair, because he was around so little, so when he was home, there was no enforcing homework, there was no discipline. He was 100 percent fun dad, and he called himself “Silly Dada,” cause that’s what he was doing.’
The celebrity chef-turned-TV host married Busia-Bourdain and had Ariane in 2007, two years after his first marriage to his high school sweetheart Nancy Bourdain ended in divorce. The couple separated in 2016, but they never legally divorced, even during his roller-coaster romance with Argento.
Bourdain, a recovering cocaine and heroin addict, suffered from depression and died by suicide in June 2018 at age 61. He hanged himself while staying at the Le Chambard hotel in Kaysersberg, France, where he was filming an upcoming episode of his CNN show Parts Unknown.
Ariane, who was 11 when she lost her father, has fond memories of the time she spent with him, saying he ‘played with [her] all the time’ and encouraged creativity and weirdness.
‘If I was like, “Hey, let’s pretend to do this,” he’d pretty much do it all the time,’ she told Woolever, recounting how he let her put soap in his hair while playing barbershop.
However, she realized at a young age that her dad wasn’t like other parents in terms of what she was allowed to watch and do.
‘I watched Archer with my dad, which I found pretty funny, even as a little kid. Of course, I still watched the regular kid TV shows, but I wasn’t hearing about anyone else who was playing Grand Theft Auto with their parents,’ she explained. ‘And I kind of realized when I was younger that, “Oh, not a lot of kids fall asleep to Dexter.”‘
Ariane said her dad liked to take her to fast-food restaurants that her mother didn’t approve of and ‘would make it seem like we were on this mission.’
He would have her tell her mom they were going to get the newspaper downstairs, and then they would sneak out to go to Papaya King to get a hot dog and a shake.
‘Then we’d come back and say, “That was an interesting newspaper yeah,’ she recalled. ‘I’m sure my mom knew. Why would it take us twenty minutes to get the newspaper?’
Bourdain liked to make breakfast for his daughter, according to Busia-Bourdain, and when she got older, he started to teach her how to cook.
‘I always cooked with him. We’d always cook ratatouille, from the movie Ratatouille, and we made it exactly like they made it,’ Ariane said. ‘We’d cook schnitzel; he’d make little stations: one of them has the breading, one has the flour, one has the eggs, and my dad put it in the pan.
‘He’d cook omelets for me all the time, and I’d help him flip it. He would let me sprinkle chocolate chips or blueberries into pancakes, and then he’d let me flip the pancake a little. When we were in the Hamptons, he’d cook dinner, cook breakfast, so that’s when he really cooked for me.’
‘He taught me how to cut things and not chop off my fingers, to curl my fingers under. He gave me my own little knife, and I still have it, and still use it.’
Busia-Bourdain said Bourdain was concerned about staying healthy ‘because he wanted to be around for Ariane,’ but he became ‘impulsive’ in the last two years of his life after he met Argento and moved out.
Journalist Maria Bustillos told Woolever that she found Bourdain’s infatuation with Argento to be particularly alarming.
‘The way he was in love, and described being in love, I would have been concerned if I’d been one of his friends. And I’m not saying that in retrospect; I thought it then [in February 2018], for sure,’ she said.
‘He didn’t go for five minutes without saying, “Asia thinks this” and “Asia thinks that.” He sounded like a person who was deeply infatuated, obsessed, even, and it struck me as a vulnerability in him,’ she recalled.
‘Just the way that the idea of who he was when he was alone was so bound up with this lady, that was concerning. I would have been concerned.’
In an excerpt from the book shared by the New York Post, director Michael Steed, who worked with Bourdain on Parts on Unknown and No Reservations, criticized Argento for bringing negativity back into his life.
‘There was this peak period where he seemed happy. That addictive personality was just all focused on jiu-jitsu,’ he said. ‘And then f****** what’s-her-name enters his life, and he starts smoking again, and it just sort of got back into that negative energy that fit this weird fantasy character that he felt he was.’
Argento, who has denied her relationship with Bourdain contributed to his death, was not interviewed for the book, nor did she appear in the documentary Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain, which came out in July.
Their tumultuous relationship is the focus of the last part of the documentary as it paints the picture that the celebrity chef had become ‘addicted’ to the Italian actress.
It also addresses how paparazzi photos emerged of Argento embracing a male friend and holding hands in Rome just five days before Bourdain’s death.
The documentary does not blame Argento for Bourdain’s suicide, but an Indiewire reviewer said the movie ‘comes dangerously close to exploiting the scenario.’
Morgan Neville, the director of the film, told the Wall Street Journal that Bourdain and Argento’s relationship was like ‘quicksand’ so he only wanted to touch on it briefly.
‘You can make a whole film just about that and that was not the film I wanted to make. It gets really complicated and in a way that to me is not ultimately enlightening,’ he said.
‘What I included was a fraction of what was there. So if people think there’s a lot, let me tell you, there is very little compared to what’s there. I feel like I showed tremendous restraint, even though people may not know that. And I think I was very fair with having seen all the facts. I’m very comfortable with what I did.’
Neville said the film was heavily vetted by his lawyers, including in Italy, as well as CNN’s legal team given CNN Films was an executive producer — in case Argento or someone else objected to how they had been portrayed.
‘I went out of my way to make sure I put the quote in from Michael Steed saying, “Tony killed Tony, you know, 60-year-old men don’t normally kill themselves because they broke up with somebody,”‘ Neville said.
‘I’m not saying she caused his suicide. Suicide is a private and I think selfish act,’ he continued. ‘I was merely trying to paint a picture, I think accurately, of the different factors in his life that were going on, and there were many of them.
‘The impression of him really over the last year was him just being much more manic and much more depressive.’