(Reuters) – U.S. celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, host of CNN’s food-and-travel-focused “Parts Unknown” television series, killed himself in a French hotel room, officials said on Friday, in the second high-profile suicide of a U.S. celebrity this week. He was 61.
Bourdain, whose career catapulted him from washing dishes at New York restaurants to dining in Vietnam with President Barack Obama, hanged himself in a hotel room near Strasbourg, France, where he had been working on an upcoming episode of his program, CNN said.
Investigators were treating the death in Kaysersberg, France, as a suicide, local prosecutor Christian de Rocquigny said in a telephone interview.
His death comes three days after American designer Kate Spade, who built a fashion empire on her signature handbags, was found dead of suicide in her New York apartment on Tuesday.
Suicide rates rose in nearly every U.S. state from 1999 to 2016, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday. Nearly 45,000 people committed suicide in 2016, making it one of three leading causes of death that are on the rise, along with Alzheimer’s disease and drug overdoses.
Suicide rates surged among people aged 45 to 64, according to the CDC report. The center recommended a broad approach to prevention, including boosting economic support by states, supporting family and friends after a suicide, and identifying and supporting those at risk.
Bourdain climbed the culinary career ladder to become executive chef at New York’s former Brasserie Les Halles restaurant.
His fame began to grow exponentially in 1999 when the New Yorker magazine published his article “Don’t Eat Before Reading This,” which he developed into the 2000 book, “Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly.”
Brash and opinionated, he also spoke openly about his use of drugs and addiction to heroin earlier in his life.
He went on to host television programs, first on the Food Network and the Travel Channel, before joining CNN in 2013.
“His love of great adventure, new friends, fine food and drink and the remarkable stories of the world made him a unique storyteller,” the network said in a statement. “His talents never ceased to amaze us.”
Bourdain told the New Yorker in 2017 that his idea for “Parts Unknown,” which was in its 11th season, was traveling, eating and doing whatever he wanted. The show roamed from out-of-the-way restaurants to the homes of locals, providing what the magazine called “communion with a foreign culture so unmitigated that it feels practically intravenous.”
When Obama went to Hanoi, Vietnam in May 2016, he met Bourdain at a casual restaurant for a $ 6 meal of noodles and grilled pork.
“He taught us about food — but more importantly, about its ability to bring us together,” Obama tweeted on Friday, along with a picture showing the two drinking beer in Hanoi. “To make us a little less afraid of the unknown. We’ll miss him.”
President Donald Trump called Bourdain’s death “very shocking.”
“I enjoyed his show, he was quite a character,” Trump told reporters at the White House.
Bourdain last year canceled plans to build a 155,000-square-foot (14,400 square meter) international food hall on a pier on the Hudson River in New York, local media reported.
“Tony’s restless spirit will roam the earth in search of justice, truth and a great bowl of noodles,” award-winning chef Tom Colicchio said of Bourdain on Twitter.
The National Suicide Lifeline, which provides services for people experiencing suicidal thoughts, tweeted: “Please know you are never alone, no matter how dark or lonely things may seem. If you’re struggling, reach out.”
Reporting by Scott Malone in Boston; Additional reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York, Gilbert Reilhac in Strasbourg, France, and Bill Trott and James Oliphant in Washington; Editing by Bernadette Baum
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