Anthony Bourdain’s death may have come as a shock to the world, but according to a source, his dark side was “always there.”
“I’m still in total shock of course. I just can’t believe it, and I can’t believe it would happen while he was in the middle of working,” a source who has known Bourdain for decades tells PEOPLE of the 61-year-old American chef and TV host, who died of an apparent suicide in France.
The host of CNN’s Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown was found unresponsive in his hotel room Friday morning by close friend and French chef Eric Ripert, according to CNN. Both were filming an upcoming episode of Bourdain’s award-winning show.
“If there was one thing that was always his saving grace, it was his ability to throw himself into his work — he was never happier than when he was on some adventure or in the middle of a project, so it’s so bizarre to me, and I’m sure to many people who knew him, that of all the times, this happened when he was doing what he loved and with people he loves,” continues the source.
In a February interview with PEOPLE just months before his death, Bourdain opened up about his “driven” nature and how his Parts Unknown team “has become like my dysfunctional family.”
While Bourdain admitted he had thought about retiring, he explained he’d since given up on that idea. “I’ve tried. I just think I’m just too nervous, neurotic, driven,” he said.
“I would have had a different answer a few years ago. I might have deluded myself into thinking that I’d be happy in a hammock or gardening. But no, I’m quite sure I can’t,” he continued, adding, “I’m going to pretty much die in the saddle.”
“I guess the darkness just finally overtook him,” adds the source. “That’s the thing about him and he’d have been the first to say it — his dark side was always there, but it’s like the darkness was always just a few steps behind him, it was like he’d managed to outrun it, literally, with this life of far-flung adventures and everything. But it was never really gone.”
“He always had a very very dark side,” the source continues. “And the same things that drove him to heroin, those demons are never fully banished, they’re just controlled. But he still had them.”
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Bourdain was candid about his struggles with heroin earlier in his career, telling Biography in 2016, “I got off of heroin in the 1980s. Friends of mine from the ‘70s and ‘80s, they just got off five, six, maybe 10 years ago. And we’re the lucky ones. We made it out alive. There are a lot of guys that didn’t get that far. But you know, I also don’t have that many regrets either.”
Bourdain — who shared an 11-year-old daughter, Ariane, with ex-wife Ottavia Busia — began dating Italian actress Asia Argento in 2017, after she appeared on an episode of Parts Unknown filmed in her hometown of Rome.
Argento was one of the dozens of women to accuse Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault and harassment in 2017 (Weinstein has “unequivocally” denied “any allegations of non-consensual sex”). Bourdain became one of the most outspoken celebrities about the #MeToo era, showing unwavering support for his girlfriend, and even holding a dinner for Argento and fellow Weinstein accusers Rose McGowan and Annabella Sciorra.
“It was an honor to cook for this meeting of the minds,” he said on Twitter, tweeting out a picture of the meal in November.
A police spokesperson in Strasbourg, France, confirmed Bourdain’s death to PEOPLE, but could not provide additional comment.
“It is with extraordinary sadness we can confirm the death of our friend and colleague, Anthony Bourdain,” CNN said in a statement. “His love of great adventure, new friends, fine food and drink and the remarkable stories of the world made him a unique storyteller. His talents never ceased to amaze us and we will miss him very much. Our thoughts and prayers are with his daughter and family at this incredibly difficult time.”
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text “help” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.