Eric Ripert Creates #BourdainDay to Honor Anthony Bourdain: Inside the Food Personalities' Lasting Friendship

Following the unexpected death of Bourdain, ET is looking back on one of his high-profile friendships, with the famed French chef.

On Friday, June 8, 2018, the world woke up to the shocking news that famed chef and TV food personality Anthony Bourdain was dead at 61. At the time, Bourdain was in Strasbourg, France, filming an upcoming episode of his award-winning series, Parts Unknown. Friend and French chef Eric Ripert reportedly found his body; the cause of death was an apparent suicide.

“It is with extraordinary sadness we can confirm the death of our friend and colleague, Anthony Bourdain,” CNN said in a statement to ET. “His love of great adventure, new friends, fine food and drink and the remarkable stories of the world made him a unique storyteller.”

“Anthony was a dear friend,” Ripert told The New York Times. “He was an exceptional human being, so inspiring and generous. One of the great storytellers of our time who connected with so many. I wish him peace. My love and prayers are with his family, friends and loved ones.”

Ahead of the first anniversary of Bourdain’s death, Ripert is remembering his late friend by calling for an online celebration. He and chef José Andrés recently announced that June 25, the date that would have been Bourdain’s 63rd birthday, will be known as #BourdainDay.

“On June 25 we all are going to celebrate the birthday of our dear friend and beloved Anthony Bourdain,” Ripert says in a video posted to Instagram.

“We want all of you to celebrate Tony’s life,” Andrés says before Ripert adds: “By cheering to Tony anywhere you want with anyone you want.”

As the two celebrate their late friend, ET looks back on the enduring 20-year relationship between Bourdain and Ripert. 

Both renown names in the food industry, Bourdain and Ripert rose to fame in the New York City culinary scene during the 1990s, but didn’t cross paths until after Bourdain published the 2000 memoir, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, which included nothing but praise for Le Bernadin, where Ripert worked and was part-owner.

After reading the book, Ripert reached out to Bourdain. “I called him and invited him for lunch and we had lunch, we had a good time, and that was the beginning of the friendship,” Ripert revealed to The Huffington Post.

“I was absolutely floored that a chef who I respected that much from a restaurant that I never could have been able to afford would call me up and invite me to lunch,” Bourdain said in an interview with Hamptons Magazine.

Much of their relationship -- a culinary bromance, if you will -- would be documented onscreen, starting in 2002, when Ripert appeared on Bourdain’s first TV series, A Cook’s Tour on Food Network, to sample the menu at the California restaurant French Laundry.

They later reunited on Bourdain’s 2005 Travel Channel series, Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, which saw the host travel the world to taste local cuisines. After making a few cameos on the series, Ripert became Bourdain’s trusted sidekick and unofficial co-host, when he appeared on later episodes -- most notably, on the show’s 100th, during which Bourdain brings Ripert on for a food crawl through Paris, and the series finale.

In 2012, Bourdain returned the favor to Ripert by appearing on his Reserve Channel and YouTube series, On the Table. “Eric calls up and says, ‘Let’s play.’ I play,” Bourdain said at the time. The two also appeared together on other shows, like ABC's The Taste, from time to time.

Ripert would also become a reliable fixture on Bourdain’s CNN series, Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown. This time, they traveled to Peru during season one, gorged on cheese in Marseille, France in season six, and test the limits of spicy food in China, during a season episode in 2016.

“I like to bring the distinguished three-star Michelin chef and good friend Eric Ripert someplace every year and torture him,” Bourdain deadpanned on Twitter, while promoting the seventh season of Parts Unknown, on which the two explored the French Alps.

“I am there to make him look good, [so] he makes me suffer eating things I am uncomfortable with,” Ripert said in 2017, after filming the seventh-season episode, later recalling when Bourdain took him to China for the show: “Probably the most uncomfortable thing was eating Sichuan food in Chengdu in China because, I mean, I would start to hallucinate because of the strength of the spices. That was the worst yet.”

When asked why the two have such great chemistry onscreen, Ripert said it simply: “We’re very good friends. We laugh and it’s comfortable because we can be calm, and sometimes we don’t speak at all and we’ll be happy together.”

Revealing that they don’t see each other too much outside of filming the show, occasional barbeques and public appearances, Ripert said, “it makes quite a difference, and opportunity to be together.” 

The two were last seen together at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival premiere of Wasted! The Story of Food Waste. The two were set to reunite onscreen for Parts Unknown when Ripert found Bourdain’s body on June 8.

In November of 2018, Ripert spoke to CBS This Morning about their “20 years of friendship on television and off television.”

“We used to play pranks on each other and we used to have a lot of fun but he never criticized my food -- which was nice,” he remembered fondly, while adding that “[Anthony was] very respectful of cultures and he wanted to share with the public his discoveries. The idea was do not be scared of traveling and do not be scared going to other countries and do not stay at the resort, do not stay at the hotel and eat the normal menu. Just go out, go in the street and engage with people. Try the food and learn the culture from that experience and I think he did really well in breaking walls, right, in between us and other countries that we sometimes are a bit scared or nervous to visit and that was really a great part of his legacy.”