The Truth About Anthony Bourdain's Romantic Relationships

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The following article mentions suicide, sexual assault, and drug abuse. 

It's safe to say that Anthony Bourdain has remained a treasured part of both the entertainment and food industries even years after his 2018 death. Best known as a well-respected foodie and a captivating travel show host, Bourdain's career path seemingly stemmed from his love of food. He began his career as a restaurant chef in Manhattan, per The New York Times, then went on to author multiple books centered on the topic. Of course, Bourdain's major success came from TV, with his popular food and travel shows "Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations" and "Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown."

Despite having the dream job of traveling the world to eat, Bourdain struggled when it came to his personal life. In his early days, the writer became addicted to cocaine and heroin for several years, which was something he was very open about. But what many fans didn't know about Bourdain until he committed suicide at age 61 was that he also suffered from depression

Just as with his career path, Bourdain wasn't traditional when it came to his love life, though he did get married twice. You could say the chef had intense and unusual relationships with three women in particular: his first wife Nancy Putkowksi, his second wife and the mother of his only child, Ottavia Busia, and his girlfriend at the time of his death, actor Asia Argento. So let's break down these relationships to get to know more about the romantic side of this beloved and missed talent.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

He married his high school sweetheart

Anthony Bourdain married his first love. He told Daily Life, "At high school, I fell in with your typical bad crowd but I also fell in love with Nancy Putkowski." He revealed that Putkowski was not only older than him but also known as a "bad girl" who was part of a "druggy crowd." Despite her reputation, it seems she did get Bourdain to graduate high school early and go to college. He followed Putkowski to Vassar but ended up leaving to attend the Culinary Institute of America instead. Bourdain recalled how, like most young couples, he and Putkowski "went through a lot of times, many of them great, many of them bad."

They officially tied the knot in 1985, but just because they were married didn't mean they gave up their wild ways. Bourdain not only compared their romance to the film "Drugstore Cowboy" in an interview with The New Yorker but also described it as "That kind of love and codependency and sense of adventure—we were criminals together." Yet a childhood friend revealed (via The New York Post) that their relationship had a dark side, explaining, "When Tony's dad died, they got some money, and it just went into their veins."

That may be why the two never had kids together. Bourdain told The Guardian in 2006 that he'd rather be "the evil uncle who lets them do everything," acknowledging, "Up until very recently I could hardly take care of myself."

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Anthony Bourdain and Nancy Putkowski drifted apart due to his work

Nancy Putkowski may have been Anthony Bourdain's first love, but it seems the two weren't each other's end game. While the TV personality told The Daily Life that Putkowski "was my partner in crime, my wife, and before that my girlfriend," they apparently drifted apart. Bourdain seemingly blamed his career change at the time, saying, "I spent almost two years traveling and filming 'A Cook's Tour' and, as a result, my marriage fell apart." It probably didn't help that Bourdain wrote in his book "A Cook's Tour" that Putkowski "hated the idea of making a television show, hated being near a camera, and had already taken a serious dislike to the producer for keeping me busy most of the day."

Bourdain dished to The Guardian that traveling had also affected how he perceived his marriage. He explained that after going to Vietnam in particular, "I knew that my whole previous life was doomed. ... I had seen that ... color ... and I knew that that had changed me." When it came to his feelings for Putkowski, he confessed, "She was the love of my life. But everything changed."

Despite reaching this conclusion, Bourdain recalled to The New Yorker that he was suicidal after their 2005 divorce and would still send Putkowski emails that were the "the sort of thing you write if you ... thought you were going to die." He explained to The Guardian, "What I do regret is letting people down. ... as a friend, as a lover, being a letdown."

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

He briefly dated a journalist

Following his split from his first wife, Nancy Putkowski, Anthony Bourdain dated gossip columnist Paula Froelich for a few months in 2005, per Yahoo!. The former Page Six writer confirmed their romance at her book party when she was asked how she got Bourdain to cater it. According to The New York Times, she revealed at the time, "He offered which I never would have asked him. I mean that's a bit much, you know, to be like, 'Oh hey by the way I know that we like to hang out and have sex but will you cook for my party?'"

While their relationship didn't last long, the two attended several events together, even kissing for the camera at one, per The Daily Mail. They apparently even stayed friends after their breakup, remaining in touch years later. Following Bourdain's death, Froelich told The Daily Beast, "I last saw him a year ago. He was a wonderful human being."

The journalist also paid tribute to her late ex with an Instagram post where she shared her own photo of them together, writing in the caption, "To a good man, a great friend, a loyal love. That's all I'm going to say." However, she did write a series of deleted tweets about depression that were perceived to be about Bourdain's suicide, writing (via People), "You can be rich as hell, totally successful but still lonely AF." She added, "But take heart in knowing: only the best, funniest, loveliest, most empathetic, wonderful, talented people have depression."

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

His second wife shared mutual interests

In 2007, Anthony Bourdain got married again, this time to Italian restaurant manager Ottavia Busia. People reports that despite Busia being 22 years Bourdain's junior, the two were set up by their mutual friend and famous chef Eric Ripert. In the documentary "Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain," Busia recalled (via People), "I thought he was going to be this bad boy — a little bit arrogant and not what I was expecting but endearing nonetheless." She explained how his busy schedule didn't bother her at first, telling Married to a Chef, "When I met him I was actually the one working in a restaurant and he was already traveling the world." Because their lives were so hectic, they often met up "in dive bars in the middle of the night."

One of those first dates, in particular, was what made Bourdain fall in love. He dished to Cosmopolitan, "She ordered a six-pound lobster. I sat there, enraptured ... Her fearless, open-minded approach to food is completely alluring." Besides their love of food, they also bonded over their restaurant industry experience. Busia explained, "We used to meet after my shift was over and we would stay up for hours drinking beers, talking about my day at work. "

The couple was also into partying and even got matching tattoos with Busia pointing out, "we shared that particular sense of humor." Eventually, they both got into MMA fighting too. Bourdain revealed to Vice that because of that "Date night is pretty much going to a fight."

He got married again when becoming a Dad

It seems that becoming parents is what moved Anthony Bourdain's relationship with Ottavia Busia along faster. Busia explained to Vanity Fair, "We had a kid, and got married, in a few months of meeting." Despite saying he didn't want kids in the past, Bourdain seemed very taken with being a father to their daughter, Ariane. He told Daily Life, "It's cliche to say that being a father is the greatest thing ever, but there's only one thing better and that's being a father of a little girl." He even gushed to People that he and Busia had "somehow managed to raise a very healthy, very happy, self-assured little girl."

Despite becoming a dad, Bourdain's career kept him away from home a lot. Not only did Busia tell the Miami News Times that her "husband's insane schedule" was her biggest challenge, but she even recalled to Married to a Chef that she once woke up "terrified because someone was in my bed. That someone was my husband, I had just forgotten that he was home."

It appears Bourdain's schedule not only impacted his marriage but his parenting as well. Busia revealed to Vanity Fair, "He was around so little, so when he was home, there was no enforcing homework, there was no discipline. He was 100 percent fun dad." Ariane seemed to agree, saying, "He played with me all the time," adding, "He pretty much encouraged every single thing I wanted to do in my life."

He split from his second wife

You could say that a lot of the issues that led to the end of Anthony Bourdain's first marriage were still problems for his second. Ottavia Busia told Married to a Chef that like Bourdain's ex-wife, she too struggled with his fame. She explained, "When I first met my husband he wasn't particularly famous ... I have to admit at first, when people started asking for pictures or autographs pretty much everywhere, it was a little unsettling." It didn't help that she also told The New York Times, "I hate being on TV."

What made matters presumedly worse was that the two didn't seem to spend much time together, with Busia revealing that Bourdain was only home during the holidays and that she was "used to [being] alone." Bourdain seemingly mentioned this issue too when announcing their split in 2016, telling People, "My wife and I live, have lived, very separate lives for years." The "Parts Unknown" star maintained that they remained friends, though, adding, "There's no drama here. We get along really, really well and it's not a big lifestyle change."  

Busia later revealed in the documentary "Roadrunner" (per People) that when it came to Bourdain, "It always seemed like what he wanted was this idyllic picture of family and ordinary life but then when he got it ... maybe that wasn't enough anymore." Despite their split, Page Six reports that they never finalized their divorce and that Busia was still Bourdain's next of kin at the time of his 2018 death.

He was smitten with actor Asia Argento

Anthony Bourdain's last relationship was his first with a fellow celebrity. The former chef confirmed he was dating Italian actor Asia Argento to Us Weekly in 2017 after the two were spotted canoodling around Italy. He gushed, "I am happy. I am very happy," and later called  Argento "someone who is very precious to me." The two didn't hide their romance, often posting about each other on social media. In one Instagram selfie, Bourdain wrote in the caption, "Just a perfect day. You made me forget myself." Argento reposted it, adding, "I'll stick with you baby for a thousand years."

Bourdain spoke very highly of his love, telling People, "She's a really accomplished director and writer along with being a longtime actress and a real sponge for culture, music, literature," adding, "she's enormously helpful and inspiring." He also pointed out that Argento didn't have a problem with his busy schedule, saying, "We both work a lot and we're both away from home a lot."

While Bourdain never wanted to get married again, he dished to People that he enjoyed "being around [Argento] as much as possible" and that he appreciated how similar they were. "She's like me, in a lot of ways. We've both been married twice ... I think we both respect each other's work." Argento did accompany Bourdain on a lot of his traveling for "Parts Unknown." She not only would sometimes appear with him on the TV series but even directed an episode.

Anthony Bourdain's relationship with Asia Argento may have been toxic

While Anthony Bourdain appeared to be very in love with actor Asia Argento, some close to him were worried that the romance was more of an unhealthy obsession. An unnamed source told People he was "Like a teenage boy just absolutely lovestruck," adding, "He would have done anything for her, and that was a little red flag for some of his friends." 

Bourdain's "Parts Unknown" producer Christopher Collins told the New York Post that their relationship could be toxic, saying, "There was a very sort of manic nature to what was going on in that last year." He continued, "The highs were very, very high, and the lows were very ugly." To make matters worse, following Bourdain's death, Argento told The Daily Mail that she had cheated on him because "He had cheated on me too." She added, "It wasn't a problem for us. He was a man who traveled 265 days a year."

Their relationship was also presumably strained when Argento was accused of sexually assaulting actor Jimmy Bennett when he was only 17, per TMZ. Before that, Argento had revealed she was the victim of convicted rapist Harvey Weinstein. In response to the revelation, Bourdain tweeted, "I am proud and honored to know you." He remained by Argento's side in the wake of the Bennett accusations by reportedly paying Bennett off to keep him quiet. Argento denied the assault but admitted to the payoff in a statement to Yashar Ali that read in part, "Anthony was afraid of the possible negative publicity."

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

They were shaken by his death

Anthony Bourdain's 2018 suicide, of course, left those who had loved him devastated. His first wife, Nancy Putkowksi, admitted (per The New York Post) that despite their split, she was worried about him before his death. "I didn't like the way he looked in the last couple of years," she said in the book "Bourdain: The Definitive Oral Biography." She continued, "He looked like he was being ridden hard and put away wet."

His second wife, Ottavia Busia, seemed to agree, revealing, "He was much darker in the last year or so of his life ... I could not really recognize him." Busia reiterated this in "Roadrunner," saying (via People), "He was not the same person. Something changed and became really heavy." She expressed regret, adding, "I should have kept an eye on him more." Yet Busia apparently doesn't want to focus on how Bourdain died. Instead, she said, "I want to remember when we were together, all the amazing things that we'd done."

As for Argento, she tweeted (via E!) that she was "beyond devastated," adding, "He was my love, my rock, my protector." She later expressed to The Daily Mail that it hurts her that "People say I murdered him," since some blamed her for Bourdain's depression. She continued, "I understand that the world needs to find a reason." She did add, "What I do feel terrible about is that he had so much pain inside of him." It's clear that Bourdain not only touched many fans around the world but also those who loved him even more.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.