— 17 May 2023

“I’d F***ed Up Enough”: The Inspiring Story of Anthony Bourdain’s Big Break At Age 44

— 17 May 2023
Garry Lu
WORDS BY
Garry Lu

If you’ve been feeling as though you’re behind schedule lately, then it’s definitely worth revisiting how Anthony Bourdain earned his big break.

The man we revere in present-day had experienced a handful of false starts throughout the mid-80s and early 90s – namely attempts at culinary fiction like Bone in the Throat, which he paid for his own book tour to promote, and Gone Bamboo; both of which performed poorly in sales – but the moment it all came together for the world-weary veteran chef didn’t occur until 1999.

“My big break came when I wrote a short piece intending it for a free paper in New York called The New York Press,” Anthony Bourdain recounted while in conversation with Fast Company.

RELATED: A Guide To Anthony Bourdain’s Favourite Restaurants Around The World

“And they intended to publish it, I was told, but they kept bumping it week after week after week, and in a moment of hubris, I listened to my mom’s completely unreasonable suggestion that I send it to The New Yorker. The New Yorker calls and says, ‘We’re running your story, we’re buying your story.'”

“They ran it, an editor at Bloomsbury whose name was Karen Rinaldi had read the article and commissioned me for the staggeringly high price of $50,000 to write a book. When that book came out, it was immediately a best-seller and it changed my life overnight. Overnight.”

That book, of course, was Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly – an expansion of the aforementioned New Yorker article ‘Don’t Eat Before Reading This‘ – and would serve as the mainstream introduction to the inimitable Anthony Bourdain brand.

It also marked the beginning of Bourdain’s third act in life, which would see him soar to the heights of international stardom and philosophical immortality.

How Anthony Bourdain Landed His Big Break At The Age Of 44

RELATED: The Secret Life Of Anthony Bourdain

He added: “I mean I was desperately in debt, hadn’t paid my rent in time ever, had owed Amex for ten years, without making a single payment, owed the IRS – hadn’t even filed – it was a very, very, very insecure place at age 44. Suddenly, people were offering me things, and offering me opportunities.”

“I was old enough and I’d f***ed up enough already that I just said, you know, ‘I realise this is a lucky break.’ So I made very careful choices, and I said no a lot to what seemed like a lot of money. What’s good for you in the short run is now necessarily good for you in the long run.”

A few years later, Bourdain would find himself hosting A Cook’s Tour for the Travel Channel. And while it only ran for 35 episodes from 2002 right through to 2003, it eventually earned him an identical role for No Reservations (2005-2012) and The Layover (2011-2013) – precursors to CNN’s hit series Parts Unknown (2013-2018).

The late great Anthony Bourdain is widely credited for reviving gonzo journalism in the culinary world, as well as reconceptualising how the masses approach travel.

The moral of the story? It’s never too late to become who you were meant to be.


2023 marks five years since the death of Anthony Bourdain. If you or anyone you know is anxious, depressed, considering self-harm or suicide, there are people who want to help. Reach out here or call Lifeline on 13 11 14. And as always, don’t forget to check on your mates.

Garry Lu
WORDS by
After stretching his legs with companies such as The Motley Fool and the odd marketing agency, Garry joined Boss Hunting in 2019 as a fully-fledged Content Specialist. In 2021, he was promoted to News Editor. Garry proudly retains a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, black bruises from Muay Thai, as well as a black belt in all things pop culture. Drop him a line at [email protected]

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