Prior to his relationship with #MeToo activist Asia Argento, Anthony Bourdain was married to MMA fighter Ottavia Busia. The pair married on April 20, 2007, a little over a week after Busia gave birth to their daughter, Ariane. There was a 22-year age difference between the couple.
In September 2016, the couple announced their split with Busia saying that Bourdain’s demanding work and travel schedule had made their relationship impossible. Busia said in a statement to Page Six at the time, “Because of professional decisions we both have made, my husband and I have been for years in an unconventional relationship. Nothing has changed. We love each other. We respect the decisions the other has made. And we’ll always consider ourselves a family.”
On June 8, 2018, CNN reported that Bourdain had taken his own life while filming Parts Unknown in Strasbourg, France. Bourdain had hanged himself, he was found by his friend, French chef Eric Ripert.
If you, or anyone you know, is having suicidal thoughts please call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number on 1-800-273-8255 or go to their website here.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Busia Made it From Her Small Town in Italy to the U.S. as a Groupie With an Irish Rock Band
Busia was interviewed for a feature in the New York Times in October 2012. She told the newspaper that she grew up in a small town in Lombardy in the northern part of Italy. Busia added that she was studying to be a dentist. That all changed in 2000 when Busia moved to the U.S. to follow an Irish rock band with whom she was infatuated with.
On music, Busia said that her gym playlist contained, “It’s a pretty eclectic playlist: Foo Fighters, Blur, Smashing Pumpkins, Tokyo Police Club, We Were Promised Jetpacks, Rage Against The Machine, Vampire Weekend, Pearl Jam, MGMT.” None of whom are Irish bands.
2. The Couple Was Set Up by Eric Ripert
Busia told the Times that after moving to the U.S. she worked in a variety of restaurant jobs in New York City before becoming the general manager of Geisha. The consulting chef of that restaurant was Bourdain’s friend and the man who would find the CNN star dead, Eric Ripert. Ripert thought that Bourdain and Busia would hit it off so he introduced them. Ripert said in the Times article, “It was what we call in French a coup de foudre,” love at first sight. Busia said in a separate interview that her first job was a waitress in a pizzeria in her homeland.
In an interview with Cosmopolitan Magazine, Bourdain talked about falling in love with Busia while watching her devour a six-pound lobster. He also mentioned that the couple had their first date in a cigar bar. The New York Times reports that after “a few dates” the pair got matching chef’s knife tattoos.
Busia told Married to a Chef that it was the restaurant business that brought the pair together. She said that the couple would meet after her shift and drink beers for hours while talking about the business. Busia said, “Anybody else would have been bored to death, or horrified, but for him it was enjoyable and it would bring back memories his days in the business.”
3. Busia Said in a 2010 Interview that Bourdain’s Schedule Was the Biggest Strain on Their Relationship
In a 2010 interview with the Miami New Times, Busia said that the hardest part of her marriage to Bourdain was his constant traveling schedule. During the same piece, Busia joked that it had been her “childhood ambition to marry Anthony Bourdain.” When asked about her perfect day, Busia said it would be drinking daiquiris with her husband while their daughter is “splashing around in the sea.” Her ideal date would be “a weekend in room #55 at the Chateau Marmont.” Thanks to his Busia’s passion for MMA, Bourdain wrote in Vice in 2013 that, “Date night is pretty much going to a fight. In between we watch tapes of guys wrestling each other. Romantic? Not.”
Busia expanded on her feelings towards Bourdain’s schedule in her Married to a Chef interview saying, “I remember once waking up in the middle of the night terrified because someone was in my bed. That someone was my husband, I had just forgotten that he was home.”
4. On Her MMA Career, Busia Says Bourdain Would Joke, ‘I Married Sophia Loren & Ended Up With Jean Claude Van Damme’
Busia wrote in an essay for Lena Dunham’s Lenny newsletter about her love of MMA in 2016. In the essay, Busia said that her husband often joked that, “He married Sophia Loren but ended up with Jean-Claude Van Damme.” Busia explained how she first became interested in the sport saying:
I began kickboxing on the Upper East Side shortly after the birth of my daughter nine years ago. The gyms and locker rooms there smelled of fresh blowouts and nail polish.
Like me, most of the other women were there to “get their body back” after pregnancy or to learn self-defense. But even after I had “gotten my body back” and finished the self-defense classes, I found myself wanting more. I was hooked.
When I decide I like something, I go in all the way. And what I really liked was hitting my instructors. So when they told me I should train in jujitsu.
Speaking about Bourdain’s Sophia Loren joke, Busia said, “There’s something to that. I’m not the same person. I’m hard now, physically and mentally. The confidence I gained is something I’m proud to share with my daughter, who, like me, has been training jujitsu for some time.” The blog finishes with Busia saying, “Jujitsu has become my life.”
5. Busia Says Her Training Diet Is ‘Mostly Meat & Cheese, With the Occasional Donut’
Busia explained her training diet in an interview with the Jiujitsu Times saying, “My training diet is mostly meat and cheese with the occasional donut, so it’s definitely not hard to maintain!” Busia can justify her diet as when she talks about her training regime, Busia says that she trains around 20 times a week.
Bourdain said of Busia’s discipline, “I’m not like Ottavia, who’s doing this three or four hours a day, or my daughter who goes five to six hours a week. … It’s a family affair, a togetherness thing. I’m liking it, but I’m trying to be reasonable about it. My wife is serious about it. She’s a competitor. I’m not. I’m a dilettante.”