On June 8, 2018, chef Anthony Bourdain died at the age of 61 while filming his CNN show Parts Unknown in France

By Helen Murphy and Reagan Alexander
June 08, 2019 12:00 PM
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Saturday marks the one year anniversary of the death of chef Anthony Bourdain, and one of his closest friends is opening up about what the milestone means to him.

Los Angeles-based chef Roy Choi spoke to PEOPLE last month at Netflix’s FYSEE Food Day while Choi, 49, and Jon Favreau were promoting their upcoming Netflix series The Chef Show.

“I think about Tony a lot,” he told PEOPLE. “Tony and I were really close, extremely close. I was as close to Tony as I am to Jon. It’s weird, because I still see him on [Bourdain’s CNN show] Parts Unknown, I see his name on my book, I think of all of the memories that we have had together.”

“I still can’t believe it,” he added. “I still think he’s here, that is the thing that I live with every day.”

Choi appeared on the Los Angeles Koreatown episode of Parts Unknown, published his book L.A. Son under Bourdain’s publishing line, and even posed alongside the late TV host in a PEOPLE photo shoot in 2014.

“Because he is around in so many forms, it still hasn’t transferred,” said Choi. “For me, it is still like he is here physically, it is a weird feeling that I have. He has become ‘ghost-like’ in a sense, because I am getting reminded of him in so many ways, so many things pop up.”

Roy Choi; Anthony Bourdain
| Credit: John Wolfsohn/Getty; Slaven Vlasic/Getty

Like he did with so many people throughout his life, Bourdain often broke bread with Choi to “talk about writers, talk about food, culture, photography,
the city, people, life,” Choi told PEOPLE in 2014. In May, he recalled his favorite meal that he ever shared with Bourdain.

“It was probably the first time that I met him, which was at a Korean restaurant in Koreatown called Ham Ji Park, which is a farmer’s style spicy pork stew restaurant,” he shared. “We just hit it off, made conversation, and just started eating. That was probably my most favorite meal.”

After news of Bourdain’s death broke last June, Choi shared an Instagram post that featured him pouring out a bottle of what appeared to be beer in honor of his friend. “RIP, Tony,” he wrote.

Earlier this month, he shared a post featuring three different photos of himself with Bourdain, captioning the images, “It’s June. #BourdainDay.”

Eric Ripert and José Andrés announced last week that June 25, which would have been Bourdain’s 63rd birthday, will be marked as #BourdainDay. In a video posted to social media, the pair had a celebratory toast in honor of their friend, and are encouraging everyone to do the same and use the hashtag to share their own videos.

Bourdain died by suicide on June 8, 2018 while filming Parts Unknown in France. He was 61.

Last month, a new book originally created as a keepsake for Bourdain’s daughter, Ariane, Anthony Bourdain Remembered, was published in honor of the chef. The book is filled with photos, memories and quotes from the late chef’s fans and famous collaborators including Barack Obama, Ripert, Questlove and Andrés.

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.