A Tribute to Anthony Bourdain and His Wild, Vagabond Roots

Megan Smolenyak
4 min readJun 8, 2018


Like grandfather, like son, like grandson? Pierre M. Bourdain, Pierre Bourdain and Anthony Bourdain

He never knew it, of course, but Anthony Bourdain and I ever-so-lightly crossed paths once. Several years ago, he wrote about a roots-centered episode of Top Chef:

I was the exhausted researcher who frantically dug into the family histories of a dozen Top Chef contestants (producers had no clue which ones would survive to this Ellis Island episode), doing the genealogical equivalent of sequential quick fires to ensure that the final five would all learn something new about their ancestry, so it was my handiwork he was musing on.

As a long-time fan of Top Chef — not to mention, French-born travel bum — I suppose it was just a matter of time before I would set my sights on Bourdain, who was a gifted chef and possibly even more talented writer. A professional vagabond and reformed but unapologetic scoundrel, he managed (on shows such as Parts Unknown, No Reservations, and The Layover) to make watching someone else travel fascinating.

So as a modest tribute to a truly one-of-a-kind, here are five things that you didn’t know about his roots:

1. Anthony Bourdain’s family tree is one of the most diverse I’ve ever researched. In addition to the obvious — France — Brazil, Ukraine, Spain, Austria, Uruguay, Paraguay, and even Gibraltar all claimed a piece of his past. Religion-wise, his heritage was both Jewish and Catholic.

For any doubting Thomases out there, here’s a small sample of the paper trail, the 1861 baptism of his great-grandfather, Aureliano Bourdain, in Sao Pedro, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil.


2. If any of the following surnames appear in your family tree, there’s a chance that you are some sort of cousin of Bourdain’s: Adler, Belami, Belliard, Bourdain, Calcada, Cohen, Duclos, Francia, Friedman, Lorel, Mallet, Riousse, Sacksman, Schuss, Ungar, and Weinrib.



Megan Smolenyak

Genealogical adventurer & storyteller who loves solving mysteries! You may not know me, but chances are you’ve seen my work. (www.MeganSmolenyak.com)