Bourdain, who began his career as a chef but became an author and television staple, was a workhorse. Since joining CNN with "Parts Unknown," he had pumped out more than 80 episodes over 11 seasons. The most recent episode aired June 3 out of Hong Kong. He told People magazine in 2016 that he spent 250 days out of the year on the road.
The man was never short on opinions. He once called Savannah foodie Paula Deen "the most dangerous person to America." Guy Fieri? "Jesus, I'm glad that's not me.'"
He visited Atlanta for an episode of Travel Channel's "The Layover" in 2012. In 2015, he talked to me about how he tricked local food savant Alton Brown to hang out with him at the stripper joint Clermont Lounge for that show.
"One of my proudest achievements in television," Bourdain said, tongue firmly in cheek. (Brown, in a Tweet this morning, simply wrote: “I...don’t...believe it. I don’t and I won’t.”)
He explained to me how he chose where to go for “Parts Unknown.”
"We only go to places I want to go," Bourdain said. "I'm always looking for some kind of personal angle or to look through somebody's particular perspective. I like to go to places people overlook or haven't really covered. That's why I did Koreatown in Los Angeles and pretended nobody was there who wasn't Korean. I'm always looking to have fun and challenge myself and my crew."
One experimental episode in South Korea episode aired in reverse chronological order. "I become progressively more sober as the show went on," he said. "It was trippy!"
He loved the challenge of making each episode unique. “We want a good contrast from episode to episode,” he said. “We’re looking to make little stand alone films in a sense.”
At his live show at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta in 2015, Bourdian said he genuinely loved his job.
"My career," he joked to the packed crowd, "is proof there is no God."
Bourdain made headlines in 2016 when he shared Vietnamese food with Pres. Barack Obama in Hanoi.
He got to pick the restaurant - Bún chả Hương Liên - and ordered a $6 bun Cha dinner featuring grilled pork and noodles for both of them. Bourdain paid.
"I purposely chose something uniquely Hanoi instead of something national like pho or spring rolls," said Bourdain to me in 2016, the last time I spoke with him. "The locals were stunned that the president would eat this humble, working class, deeply loved favorite."
He liked working with CNN. The network left him alone. And he had very little turnover with his TV crew. A majority of his staff go back to his days doing his Travel Channel show “No Reservations.” “I want everyone to be creatively satisfied, feel good about what they do and have fun with it,” he said.
Karen Reynolds, the publicist at CNN who worked closely with Bourdain, was at her father's funeral today when she heard the news. "I am devastated and numb," she wrote me Friday morning. "I received the flowers he sent to the funeral home for my dad yesterday. He made such a positive impact on my life. He could have been a diva but he chose to be a good person. There will never be anyone like him again."
Bourdain has been married twice, first to his high school sweetheart, who he divorced after 20 years, then Ottavia Busia. They married in 2007, divorced around 2016.
"My wife and I live, have lived, very separate lives for years," Bourdain told People magazine at the time. "There's no drama here. We get along really, really well and it's not a big lifestyle change happening here."
They have one daughter Ariane, 11 years old, together.