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Out of all of Anthony Bourdain's famous chef friends, Eric Ripert was one of his closest. In fact, the two had been in France working on an upcoming episode of Parts Unknown at the time of Bourdain's passing on June 8.
Bourdain and Ripert would often take their friendship to the kitchen and work together on culinary events, such as the Cayman Cookout, an annual event held in the Cayman Islands that was created and hosted by Ripert. But during events like this, Bourdain wasn't just focused on hanging out with Ripert or the attendees; he always took time out to recognize the often unsung heroes working in the kitchen, Bravo's Top Chef Season 15 runner-up Adrienne Cheatham, who worked with Ripert at his restaurant, Le Bernardin, for eight years, recalled during an interview with The Feast at the James Beard House in New York on Monday. "I met him a couple of times briefly when I was working for Eric Ripert. They would do a lot of events together. So I'd see him come into the kitchen and he'd say hi to everybody or they'd be at Cayman Cookout together. He was always so nice. He was like, 'Hey, chef, let me pass you a beer, because you were back there working while Eric Ripert is out there shaking hands,'" she shared. "So he was just such a nice guy and such a great human."
Ripert, who reportedly was the one who found Bourdain unresponsive in his hotel room in France, remembered his dear friend in a post on Instagram on June 8. "Anthony was my best friend. He was an exceptional human being, so inspiring and generous. One of the great storytellers of our time who connected with so many around the world on a level rarely seen. He brought us all on some incredible journeys," Ripert shared. "I pray he is at peace from the bottom of my heart. My love and prayers are also with his family, friends, loved ones and everyone that knew him."
In addition to her personal memories of Bourdain, Cheatham said that she will always remember the late Parts Unknown host as someone committed to showcasing diversity in the kitchen and beyond. "But he really showed how much we all have in common. And he showed the humanity of different groups that a lot of people don't see," Cheatham shared while prepping a dinner in celebration of Juneteenth at the Beard House on Monday. "There's so much that binds us together, and he was so great at giving every culture a voice and making it relatable to other people."
Cheatham expressed a similar sentiment about the loss to the world following Bourdain's passing in a post on Instagram on June 8. "A sad day for everyone, not just those in the kitchens. The world lost an advocate, a beautiful beacon of humanity," she wrote. "My heart goes out to his friends, family, and extended family around the world."
And now it's up to us to carry on this legacy of fostering human connection that Bourdain so masterfully brought into our lives, according to Cheatham. "I think we should all remember him by experiencing life the way he showed us to, which is with an open heart, an open mind, an open palette, and just recognize the beauty in each other. See somebody and don't see a stranger. Don't see someone that doesn't look like you; see someone that you want to get to know and want to see what their life is like and relate to them. I think that's the way we can best honor him," she said. "And just eat some damn good food!"
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