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New Anthony Bourdain Doc Uncovers the Man Behind the Culinary Artist

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Editor's Note

If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

Anthony Bourdain was a wiseguy who told it like it was, a renegade chef akin to a punk rocker, an unconventional television personality who revelled in the obscurities of international culinary culture with his Travel Channel show No Reservations” and “Parts Unknown” on CNN. On those shows and, apparently in his personal life, he was a heavy drinker, cigarette smoker and rebel through and through.

Bourdain, restaurateur and author of the bible of the culinary biz, “Kitchen Confidential,” died by suicide three summers ago, and now there’s a new documentary about him. 

The trailer for “Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain” dropped yesterday, and from the get-go, it foreshadows what’s to come.

“You’re probably going to find out about it anyway,” Bourdain says in the trailer as b-roll of him swimming underwater plays. “So here’s a little preemptive truth-telling. There’s no happy ending.”

The two-minute trailer shows scenes of Bourdain all over the world, as a staunch New Yorker, watching the sunset over the Sahara and trudging through ice in Antarctica. The movie takes its name from the breakneck and barreling song “Roadrunner” off the proto-punk band The Modern Lovers’ self-titled 1976 debut album, and the track plays at the front end of the trailer. 

The film features interviews with people who knew Bourdain behind the scenes, friends, and those he worked with.

Bourdain was beloved among foodies and even the general public, who were entertained by his storytelling. He was a one-of-a-kind entrepreneur who kicked ass, thriving as a celebrity chef and his suicide was not inconsequential.

“It was never almost never about food. It was about Tony learning how to be a better person,” one person says.

Another says Bourdain believed “Life’s about finding a cliff worth jumping off of. I’m gonna look for something feral and wild.” That’s Bourdain to a T, primal as hell. 

“I know how hard it must’ve been for him to reach out to someone and say ‘hey man, I’m not doing well,” another interviewee says.

And another: “He was always rushing to get into the scene, he was rushing to get out of the scene, to go somewhere next even if he had nowhere to go.”

The documentary comes from a sterling director — Morgan Neville —who made the exceptional and Oscar-winning “20 Feet from Stardom” about backup singers in the music industry, and “Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” the biopic about Mr. Rogers.

Bourdain had it all: a successful docu-series on CNN, bestselling books, a couple of revered restaurants — I wholeheartedly recommend his French outpost Les Halles in Manhattan.

But depression knows no boundaries. And Bourdain took his life despite his successes.

The chef reflects in a quick soundbite by saying: “I’m wondering, ‘are you happy?‘”

“Roadrunner” will debut at the Tribeca Film Festival on June 11, and it will hit theaters on the 16th. It’ll also air on CNN and be available on HBO Max.

Lead image via Focus Features’ YouTube channel.

Originally published: June 4, 2021
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