Four months after Anthony Bourdain's tragic death by suicide, his estranged wife Ottavia Busia paid tribute to the chef's memory by sharing a never-before-seen photo on Instagram. The incredible, lively image shows Bourdain, Busia, their daughter Ariane (now 11 years old), friend Eric Ripert (who was the first to discover the chef following his death in France), producer Helen Cho, and other friends (canine and human), all eating around a dining room table on the brink of collapse from the overflowing, raucous crowd.
After the loss of the chef, the photo served as a poignant, full-of-life memento — a balm, perhaps, to mourners:
The photo is an outtake from Bourdain's 2016 cookbook Appetites, shot in 2015 by photographer Bobby Fisher. Fisher explained to The Feast that the shoot took place over five days at Bourdain's home in New York City, and five additional days in the studio.
"The shoot was amazing," Fisher told The Feast by phone. Fisher had met Bourdain through earlier work on chef Roy Choi's earlier book, L.A. Son, for which Bourdain's imprint was the publisher.
"[Bourdain] called me out of the blue and said, 'Hey, I want you to do my book. I hadn’t spoken to him in two years and my first words were, 'Hell yeah.'"
Bourdain's vision, according to Fisher, was exactly what you might expect — or hope for: "He said, 'I want chefs to look at the photos and say, 'What the f--- is this?'' And that [direction] to me was just wide open, which made me smile. It's rare that you get to do shoots like that — the food world is usually locked down into pretty, lifestyle-y stuff."
In the end, Fisher said, "We left it up in the air and kinda made it up as we went. "
Fisher called Bourdain "super easy to work with. He was open to stuff. I think he just loved everything."
Fisher also shared with The Feast a few gems from behind the scenes — in which Bourdain fans will easily recognize the chef's signature personality characteristics... and language. "There was one instance when the food stylist wanted him to wear a kilt for this Scottish pheasant. He looked at her and said something like, in his words, 'I'm not wearing a f---ing kilt — but I do have this turkey-hunting outfit.' I went, 'Oh, that’s awesome, let’s do that — it’s in the book."
Fisher also remembered a classic moment between Bourdain and Ripert at the shot: "I asked Eric if he would spit into a spittoon for a reference [I wanted to make to] a Renaissance painting, just keep guzzling some wine. At first, he didn’t want to do it, but then I think Tony was like, 'Come on, dude — you gotta do it.' And then he just got into it. Every now and then, I’d look above my camera and just see Tony smiling."
And perhaps that push and pull is just what made the two chefs' friendship so special. "Eric is a proper French guy," Fisher told The Feast. "I think that’s what’s great about their friendship is they were opposite bookends."
Swipe for more casual shoot outtakes.
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