Bourdain remembered for easygoing spirit, welcoming attitude during Newfoundland stay

After mornings of fishing at sunrise and partying with friends after dark, Jeremy Charles is left with lasting memories of the late Anthony Bourdain.

Time to talk about mental health in the kitchen, says fellow chef

Rumours quickly spread about Anthony Bourdain's presence in Newfoundland last fall. (Twitter/@Bourdain)

Jeremy Charles will always remember drifting out through the narrows on a fishing boat at sunrise and seeing the look on Anthony Bourdain's face.

Whether cod fishing at dawn or drinking with friends and strangers at dusk, the pair made the most of every moment spent together in Newfoundland last autumn.

Charles, a renowned chef in St. John's, was shocked to hear of Bourdain's death on Friday morning.

"He loved the natural beauty, the easygoing pace of Newfoundland," he told CBC's On the Go on Friday. "We had a lot of laughs, shed parties, hunting, fishing. He was having a wonderful time, always a smile on his face. He was up and at 'em every morning and ready to go, ready for the next adventure."

Bourdain and Jeremy Charles spent time together when Bourdain visited Newfoundland. (Jeremy Charles/Instagram)

According to CNN, Bourdain, 61, ended his life in a hotel room in France.

The world-famous chef, author and TV host came to the province last September, quietly at first, before a growing tide of whispers of his whereabouts turned into a media circus.

His travel companions, Charles included, remained tight-lipped. So did Michael Foley, who was secretly training with Bourdain in a martial arts gym.

"He was very cool, very relaxed," Foley said. "He just fit in. He was one of the guys instantly."

Bourdain dropped in on Michael Foley's gym several times during the course of his stay in Newfoundland. (Michael Foley/Facebook)

Bourdain was known for his love of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, earning a blue belt and going so far as winning the New York Open in 2016 for the 56-plus division.

He was also known for dropping in on local clubs while shooting for CNN's Parts Unknown.

His five training sessions were arranged through his assistant before he arrived in St. John's. Foley kept things quiet at first, until Bourdain told him to take pictures and post them after his last session.

"It affected us very positively," he said. "We are very thankful for that."

Time to talk, Charles says

In his first book, Kitchen Confidential, Bourdain detailed the struggles that exist within restaurant culture. He spoke about the pressures they face every day, and the lifestyle of drugs and other outlets that accompanied the early years of his career.

Since hearing about Bourdain's suicide, Charles hasn't been able to stop thinking about the things that go unsaid in the kitchen.

"We talk about Michelin stars and prep lists, and eat local, stay local, or food waste and so on, but we sometimes tend to forget about ourselves," he said. 

Bourdain made the rounds across the island while filming an episode of his television show Parts Unknown. (Instagram)

"We put expectations on ourselves that are outrageous. Every day you're being judged or critiqued, or what have you, for good or bad, and always trying to stay ahead of the curve and not trying to disappoint anybody. And in the end, you're the last person you think about."

It's not just the early mornings on the water and the late nights with friends that will stick with Charles. It's the message that comes from Bourdain's death.

"Young, old, rich, poor, or whatever — we've got to talk about our mental health."

Where to get help:

Canada Suicide Prevention Service: 1-833-456-4566 (Phone) | 45645 (Text) | crisisservicescanada.ca (Chat)

In Quebec: Association québécoise de prévention du suicide: 1-866-APPELLE (1-866-277-3553)

Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868 (Phone), Live Chat counselling at www.kidshelpphone.ca

Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention: Find a 24-hour crisis centre

If you're worried someone you know may be at risk of suicide, you should talk to them about it, says the Canadian Association of Suicide Prevention. 

Here are some warning signs: 

  • Suicidal thoughts.
     
  • Substance abuse.
     
  • Purposelessness.
     
  • Anxiety.
     
  • Feelings of being trapped.
     
  • Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness.
     
  • Withdrawal.
     
  • Anger.
     
  • Recklessness.
     
  • Mood changes.

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from On the Go, Jeremy Eaton