Anthony Bourdain's mother, Gladys Bourdain, dies at 85

Gladys Bourdain encouraged her son to publish an article about his difficult experiences as a chef.
Getty Images/Annie Watt

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/ Source: TODAY
By Alyssa Newcomb

Gladys Bourdain, a writer and editor who was instrumental in helping build her son Anthony Bourdain's career as a culinary storyteller, died on Friday at a hospice facility in New York City. She was 85.

Christopher Bourdain, Gladys' only surviving son, confirmed the news to The New York Times.

Bourdain started her career at the New York Times in 1984, where she worked as a copy editor until she retired in 2008. Both of her sons credited her with introducing them to foreign cuisines and cultures, but she also helped launch Anthony's career when he was struggling chef.

Anthony Bourdain began chronicling the dirty little secrets of the restaurant industry in the late 1990s, but he struggled to find a publisher for his writing.

Gladys Bourdain gave her a rough draft of son's essay to a colleague, Esther Fein, the wife of David Remnick, and he just happened to be the newly installed editor of The New Yorker.

Fein told the New York Times about that fateful moment.

"I hate to sound like a pushy mom, but I’m telling you this with my editor’s hat on, not my mother’s hat on. It’s really good, and it’s really interesting, but nobody will look at it, nobody will call him back or give it a second look. Could you put it in your husband’s hands?'" she recalled Gladys Bourdain telling her.

The rest was culinary and literary history.

The story "Don't Eat Before Reading This" was published in The New Yorker in April 1999 and Anthony landed a book deal just days later. The following year, "Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly" became a New York Times bestseller and he would go on to host the award-winning TV programs "No Reservations" and "Parts Unknown." He died by suicide in 2018 at age 61.

Gladys Bourdain was born Gladys Sacksman on Oct. 19, 1934 in Manhattan, New York. She married Pierre Bourdain and together they had two sons, Anthony and Christopher. The couple separated in 1980.

Last year, Chris Bourdain spoke with TODAY about his upbringing in New York City, and recalled how how his mother was always taking her sons out to try new cuisines and interact with people from different cultures.

"A thing that was particularly nice that influenced Tony was our parents influencing us to try new things," the brother of the celebrated chef said. "We ate Danish in New York, we went to Chinatown regularly. When Indian showed up in the 1970s, we tried it. When sushi was a new thing in the '70s, we tried it."

Gladys Bourdain also loved to cook, especially many staples from a Julia Child cookbook, such as roast beef and Yorkshire pudding.

After her son passed in 2018, Bourdain decided to honor her Anthony's memory by getting her first tattoo: his name on her wrist.

Gladys Bourdain is survived by her son Chris, and three grandchildren, including the late Anthony Bourdain's daughter, Ariane.