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Anthony Bourdain’s Lower East Side

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Anthony Bourdain with Clayton Patterson on the Lower East Side. Photo from Bourdain's Instagram.
Anthony Bourdain with Clayton Patterson on the Lower East Side. Photo from Bourdain’s Instagram.

Reaction was swift and heartfelt today after it became known that television personality, chef and author Anthony Bourdain  took his own life while on assignment in France. Here on the Lower East Side, many of the people who either crossed paths with Bourdain or were influenced by him, are offering their personal tributes.

Back in April, Bourdain, 61, spent some time in the neighborhood shooting an episode of his CNN show, Parts Unknown. He visited Max Fish, Ray’s Candy Store, Veselka, among other locations. Bourdain also hung out with Clayton Patterson, who he described as “master archivist” and “street photographer of the Lower East Side.”

Patterson says producers for the show had reached out to set up an interview, and to ask him for some local intel (he hooked the production team up with some other LES luminaries). When we spoke with Patterson this morning, he had only praise for Bourdain. “He was just an every day guy,” said Patterson. “We had this really nice casual conversation, which I thought was really great. He was accessible, easy to talk to.”

In an essay first published in Spin a decade ago, Bourdain wrote about the pre-gentrified New York of the 1970s:

Entire neighborhoods were given over to organized gangs, feral junkies. The Lower East Side was a gigantic drug supermarket, its blocks and blocks of abandoned tenements riddled with the candlelit tunnels, steel-lined rooms, boobytraps, and shooting galleries of its many entrepreneurial retailers.

During their conversation, said Patterson, Bourdain had no qualms talking about  his days as a junkie on the Lower East Side during the 70s. “He was talking about five guys being in a cab,” explained Patterson. “And one of them said, ‘four out of five junkies die.’ He just looked around and said, ‘That’s not going to be me.’ After that he started to clean up his life.”

Social media today is full of remembrances from local chefs and other well-known downtown personalities.

If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). 


Today’s a day of extreme sadness for us here at Xi’an Famous Foods. I’ve lost a dear friend today, and we mourn with the rest of the world. I remember the time in 2007 when Tony first visited our basement food stall in Flushing for Travel Channel’s No Reservations while I was still in college (even though I didn’t know who he was at the time). I remember my father preparing interesting off-menu dishes to get his opinion on when he visited our store. I remember years later in 2015 after interviewing together for an article, I approached Tony and told him, while he may have no idea what he has done for our family and business by simply saying he enjoyed the food, I wanted him to know it helped bring our family out from living in one room in Flushing to living the American dream. We were able to grow our business and provide great food for our guests, and opportunities for our employees. I looked at him in the eyes and said, this is something we will always be thankful for, Tony. And he simply replied, “I’m just calling out good food like it is, that’s all.” In honor of his memory and all of those dear people who left us all too early, and in taking whatever action we can to prevent suicide in the US, Xi’an Famous Foods will be donating 100% of our net sales on June 8, 2018, from all of our stores, to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK @800273talk. Please cherish all of our lives and help those who may be struggling. Rest in peace, Tony, and the most sincere condolences to Tony’s beloved family. ~Jason Wang, CEO

A post shared by Xi’an Famous Foods (@xianfoods) on

To our friend and supporter @anthonybourdain , R.I.P.

A post shared by Veselka (@veselkanyc) on

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