Barack Obama on Anthony Bourdain and Their Legendary Meal: He Made Us 'Less Afraid of the Unknown'
Former President Barack Obama is remembering the time he spent with the late Anthony Bourdain
On Friday, Obama reflected on their 2016 meal in Hanoi, Vietnam, tweeting a photo of the former president’s guest appearance on season 8 of Parts Unknown, Bourdain’s award-winning CNN series.
“Low plastic stool, cheap but delicious noodles, cold Hanoi beer. This is how I’ll remember Tony,” wrote Obama, 56. “He taught us about food — but more importantly, about its ability to bring us together. To make us a little less afraid of the unknown. We’ll miss him.”
Bourdain died on Friday at the age of 61 of an apparent suicide, French police confirmed to PEOPLE.
The Emmy winner was found unresponsive in his hotel room in France by close friend and French chef Eric Ripert, according to CNN. Both were filming an upcoming episode of Parts Unknown.
CNN mourned the loss of Bourdain in a statement on Friday.
“It is with extraordinary sadness we can confirm the death of our friend and colleague, Anthony Bourdain,” the network said in a statement provided to PEOPLE. “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.”
Obama and Bourdain’s Vietnamese meal took place in May 2016. The two feasted on Bún chả, a traditional Vietnamese dish made up of grilled pork, broth, rice noodles and fresh herbs.
After the taping, Bourdain spilled the details on what it was like to dine with the leader of the free world, indicating that Obama knows his way around a chopstick.
“He handled the sticky, hard to separate noodles that accompany the pork and the broth components of Bún chả skillfully,” Bourdain wrote on a Li.st post called “Six True Things About Eating Dinner with Obama.” “He even went in for seconds.”
Obama also was one of the “very few guests” on Bourdain’s show who asked the camera crew if they got to eat too. Plus, he took a picture with everyone — which Bourdain said meant a lot.
“The reaction among regular people in Hanoi to the fact that the U.S. president chose to eat Bún chả was beyond all imagining,” Bourdain wrote. “The effect was unbelievable. People were actually crying the next day, describing to me their shock and their pride, the reactions of their neighbors, to this completely unexpected choice of meal — and the venue.”
Bourdain also spoke to PEOPLE shortly after the episode aired, recalling how memorable and enjoyable the experience was.
“I didn’t speak to him as a reporter, it wasn’t an interview,” Bourdain said in 2016. “I spoke to him as another father of a young girl, as a Southeast Asian enthusiast, as a guy who’s happy to sit on a plastic stool eating noodles with chopsticks drinking a cold Hanoi beer, and I think the president enjoyed that experience too.”
“It was really only after the shoot,” he continued, “that me and the crew all looked at each other and said, ‘Did that really happen?'”
Since then, Bún chả Hương Liên — the Hanoi eatery near the capital city’s old quartert where he two dined — decided to preserve the moment forever by encasing the table (along with the blue plastic stools the duo sat on) in glass.
“This is what the restaurant in Hanoi where our crew filmed a meal with @anthonybourdain and @barackobama now looks like…” Helen Cho, director of special ops and producer for the CNN series, wrote on a photo of the table. “WHUTTTTT.”
Bourdain reposted the photo with the caption, “Not sure how I feel about this.”
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A Strasbourg, France police spokesperson confirmed Bourdain’s death to PEOPLE, but would not confirm the cause of death. The manner of death has been classified as a suicide.
Additionally, Colmar, France, public prosecutor Christian de Rocquigny du Fayel told PEOPLE that Bourdain died by hanging at a luxury hotel in Kaysersberg called Le Chambard. “At this stage, nothing suggests the intervention of a third party,” he said.
In a statement provided to PEOPLE, the U.S. Embassy in Paris said, “We can confirm the death of Anthony Bourdain in the Haut-Rhin department of France. We extend our sincere condolences to friends and family. We stand ready to provide appropriate consular service. Out of respect for the family at this difficult time we have no further comment.”