12 Chefs That Anthony Bourdain Revered

Anthony Bourdain was more than a chef, food critic, traveler, and TV personality. He was a larger-than-life personality who captured the hearts of a generation of chefs and food lovers around the world with his humor, wit, open-mindedness, and profound honesty.

Bourdain cut his teeth in the notoriously tough, unforgiving restaurant scene in New York City, eventually getting promoted to executive chef at Brasserie Les Halles, a French restaurant in Manhattan. His journey up the culinary food chain was documented in his book "Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly," which was released in 2000 to critical acclaim and catapulted him into stardom. His natural ability to tell a story and his harsh but likable personality led to a series of television shows, most notably "Parts Unknown," where Bourdain traveled the world in search of great food. And his total lack of pretense made his pursuit of gastronomic greatness extremely relatable and was a far cry from the snobby attitude that many of us associate with fine dining. 

However, Anthony Bourdain didn't become Anthony Bourdain without the influence of chefs that he knew and respected, many of whom were his close friends. As someone who spent his career in and around kitchens, Anthony Bourdain revered chefs who approached food with a similar level of passion and attention.

Eric Ripert

Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert's friendship remains one of the greats of culinary history. When Bourdain's bestselling book Kitchen Confidential came out, Ripert was working at Le Bernardin, an upscale French restaurant in Midtown Manhattan, where he rose the ranks to eventually become head chef. After reading it, Ripert was intrigued by Bourdain's renegade attitude and invited him to lunch, and they remained friends until Bourdain's death in 2018.

And Bourdain didn't just like Ripert as a person; he respected him as a chef. In fact, before he even met Ripert, he wrote in Kitchen Confidential: "I never order fish on a Monday, unless I'm eating at Le Bernardin," which is no small compliment coming from one of the great culinary voices of our time. And he certainly wasn't alone; Le Bernardin went on to win more James Beard Awards than any other restaurant in New York City. As Bourdain's media presence grew with the production of his TV shows, Ripert was often invited along as a guest, which speaks to just how highly Bourdain regarded Ripert's perspective when it came to the art of food and eating.

Fergus Henderson

Having Anthony Bourdain praise your work has got to be one of the greatest feelings possible in the life of a chef. He wasn't one to sugarcoat his opinions, so when he thought you were doing a good job, you knew that meant something significant. There weren't many restaurants Anthony Bourdain called the total package, so you can imagine how Chef Fergus Henderson felt when Bourdain called his London restaurant, St. John, "the restaurant of my dreams" in an interview with The Guardian.

In the interview, he said that he remembers "tottering unsteadily into the kitchen, getting on to [his] knees and bowing down in front of Fergus." Bourdain wasn't one to be impressed by showiness or complicated recipes, and he respected Henderson's simple approach to cuisine. He had particularly good things to say about the roasted bone marrow at St. John, which only had a few ingredients and was "totally without pretense," according to Bourdain, who went on to call Henderson "a walking Buddha to chefs all over the world."

Thomas Keller

If you know anything about fine dining in the United States, you've heard of The French Laundry, a restaurant in Northern California's wine country with three Michelin Stars and a reputation as one of the world's premiere dining destinations. Like Anthony Bourdain, the head chef at The French Laundry, Thomas Keller has earned himself a spot in the pantheon of culinary pop culture icons, which, according to Bourdain, is well deserved.

Thomas Keller's culinary prowess is on full display at The French Laundry, which, in an episode of Bourdain's TV series, "A Cook's Life," he called "the best restaurant in the world. Period." And he's certainly not the only person who thinks so. Keller holds the record as the most decorated chef in the United States with a whopping seven Michelin Stars in total across three of his restaurants (The French Laundry, Per Se, and Bouchon). It's no wonder Bourdain has referred to him as "the most exciting chef in America" and "probably the most important celebrity chef in the world."

Alice Waters

Being liked is different than being revered, and Anthony Bourdain's relationship with Alice Waters is a perfect illustration of that difference. Waters pioneered the "slow food" movement and was the brains behind Chez Panisse, a restaurant in Berkeley, California, that opened in 1971 with an emphasis on fresh, locally grown, seasonal ingredients. It is still open today. Although he revered the cultural importance of Chez Panisse, calling it the "cradle of the food revolution" in a Gothamist article, he had different things to say about Waters as a person.

How Anthony Bourdain felt about Alice Waters was revealed in a different piece on Gothamist, where he stated, in his characteristically crass tone, that "Alice Waters annoys the living s*** out of me." The conflict became one of the most famous culinary beefs of the time (no pun intended), which got started after Waters wrote an open letter to President Obama in 2009 advising him on his selection of White House head chef. Bourdain found her emphasis on farm-to-table values unrealistic and out of touch with the reality of most Americans. He knew how to recognize her accomplishments and contributions despite his issues with her.

David Chang

Nobody ever accused Anthony Bourdain of being a simple, easy guy. He was relentlessly honest and had strong opinions about almost everything that had to do with food, and when he had something good to say about you, you listened. When he dined at David Chang's Momofuku Ssäm restaurant in Manhattan with his wife, he was so impressed with the meal that he requested to meet the chef, and a friendship blossomed between Chang and Bourdain.

The truth about Anthony Bourdain's relationship with David Chang is that it went beyond just food. As Chang revealed in his 2020 memoir "Eat a Peach," his struggle with bipolar disorder greatly impacted his career and well-being. Bourdain was there to console him when he found himself down and out after his magazine, Lucky Peach, went under. Bourdain also suffered from mental health issues, including the depression that led to his 2018 suicide, and Chang opened up about his struggles to help destigmatize conversations around mental health.

Marco Pierre White

Marco Pierre White might have been the original bad boy of culinary pop culture. When his book "White Heat" came out in 1990, it offered people a realistic glimpse of kitchen life as it had never been portrayed before. Full of vivid photographs and passages in White's brutally honest voice, Anthony Bourdain heralded the publication as one of the most impactful books about the day-to-day experience of being a chef.

At just 33 years old, White was the youngest chef to ever be awarded a Michelin Star while working as head chef at Harveys, a French restaurant in London. At the time, as Anthony Bourdain wrote in a tribute to White Heat published by Eater on the 25th anniversary of the book's release, most culinary role models were "pudgy French guys ... none of whom I'd ever consider hanging out with." However, White's book and restaurant success offered images of skinny, struggling, overworked, underpaid chefs who were just trying to eke out a living in one of the most demanding industries out there. According to Bourdain, White gave young chefs hope and "a new template for survival."

Ferran Adrià

Anthony Bourdain has no time for fluff. He is loved and respected because of his reputation as a no-nonsense New Yorker who tells it like it is and doesn't fall for gimmicks or passing fads in the food scene. So it may be a surprise to some that he had such a rave review of El Bulli, a restaurant in Spain's Catalonia region run by Head Chef Ferran Adrià that's known for its inventive presentations, most notably El Bulli's game-changing foam, a culinary technique pioneered by Adrià in the '90s that has since become a food trend almost to the point of culinary cliché.

So what is it about Adrià's approach to food that Bourdain finds so deeply captivating? In an interview with Eater ahead of the release of the El Bulli episode of No Reservations back in 2011, Bourdain explained that "the techniques are complex, but the flavors are really, really simple." Bourdain, who is famously not a fan of undue pomp, also told readers that El Bulli is "not a fancy restaurant" and that Ferran drives a "thirty-year-old car and lives in a spare white room," aspects of his life and work that seem to have earned him Bourdain's lasting respect.

Gabrielle Hamilton

Anthony Bourdain wasn't just a fan of food, he was a lover of a good story. It wasn't just that he called Gabrielle Hamilton's downtown Manhattan restaurant Prune "groundbreaking," which would be enough for most chefs to jump for joy, but that he hailed her 2011 memoir "Blood, Bones, and Butter" as "quite simply, the far and away best chef or food genre memoir ... ever. EVER." A superlative like this from a man who is widely regarded to have written one of the most successful food memoirs of all time, "Kitchen Confidential," is saying something.

Bourdain certainly respected the way Hamilton approaches food, calling her approach "quirky" and "totally uncompromising" (a high compliment from kitchen counterculture's favorite celebrity), but her life and career, which he called "enchanted, difficult, strange, rich, inspiring, and just plain hard." Apart from their common professional interests, the two were also friends, and Hamilton was, like most people in the dining industry, devastated by Bourdain's 2018 suicide, telling CBS News that she "had to go home and lie down on the floor ... actually for kind of weeks" when she heard about his passing.

Daniel Boulud

Few people doubt that running a restaurant is a tough business. Long hours and stressful working conditions are the norm, and about 60% of restaurants fail within a year of opening. That's why the fact that chef Daniel Boulud's restaurant DANIEL has thrived for three decades is remarkable, which did not go unnoticed by Anthony Bourdain, who is all too familiar with the brand of chaos specific to the restaurant industry.

Boulud is from Lyon, a city in eastern France that Bourdain visited on his hit TV series "Parts Unknown." The experience was particularly special for him. In fact, he said in an interview with Eater that the episode "has the possibility of being the greatest food-centric show [he's] ever done." Lyon has a rich culinary history, and Bourdain displayed a deep respect for Boulud's humble Lyonnaise roots and his perfectionism, which allowed him to thrive in the kitchen.

José Andrés

Chef José Andrés is a family man. Hailing from Asturias, a city in Northern Spain, Andrés is the star of the show "José Andrés and His Family in Spain," which premiered in 2022. Andrés' show features the gregarious, friendly chef on his travels throughout his home country with his daughters. Although it's a far cry from Bourdain's signature sardonic tone and wry humor, it's well known that Anthony Bourdain inspired José Andrés, who told him in an episode of Bourdain's show "Parts Unknown" that Bourdain shows "all of us that it's worth it to go to the end of the world for the right food and the right stories."

Andrés viewed Bourdain as a mentor and a friend, and it was clear in the episode that Bourdain's regard was mutual. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Andrés felt "very blessed to know him" and explained that Bourdain was a master when it came to making an experience accessible to a large audience. It's clear that the two chefs had a mutual respect and camaraderie that had a huge effect on both their lives.

Paul Bocuse

Paul Bocuse was from Lyon, a city in France with a distinct culinary history that has had an influence on French cuisine as a whole and, by extension, on the way we perceive fine dining around the world. He had a huge influence on nouvelle cuisine, the French culinary movement that transformed international cuisine. After he was wounded fighting for France during World War II, Bocuse returned to the family business, which was cooking, and ended up being one of the leading gastronomic voices of the 20th century. And it wasn't just his celebrity status that Anthony Bourdain revered, but the story of a scrappy fighter who fought his way to the top of the culinary scene.

In his legendary episode of "Parts Unknown," when he visits Lyon, Bourdain goes to Bocuse's restaurant and enjoys sea bass and a famous black truffle soup. According to an interview in Bloody Elbow, when Bourdain met Bocuse, he was so in awe sitting across a table from this culinary giant that he was "practically in tears."

Jiro Ono

The world fell in love with Japanese restauranteur Jiro Ono after the release of the film "Jiro Dreams of Sushi," a documentary that follows the chef in his obsessive, never-ending quest to serve the perfect sushi. He seems to do this on a regular basis from his restaurant, Sukiyabashi Jiro, which is located inside a subway station in the fashionable Ginza neighborhood in Tokyo. It was his legendary omakase menu, consisting of some of the world's most carefully crafted pieces of food, that Anthony Bourdain declared would be his ideal final meal (via The Guardian).

Bourdain had respect for grit and hard work, and Ono stakes his reputation as the owner of one of the most exclusive restaurants in Tokyo on exactly that — hours of working on the art of sushi. Sukiyabashi Jiro no longer has its Michelin Stars because of its opaque reservation system, which makes it difficult to get a seat. Still, the restaurant, which epitomizes Ono's work ethic and talent, was clearly one of Bourdain's favorite restaurants, an accolade that not many can claim.