Vancouver chefs react to the death of Anthony Bourdain

Some of the biggest names in Vancouver‘s food scene are mourning the death of celebrity chef and CNN host Anthony Bourdain.

B.C.-based chef and restaurateur Vikram Vij, who had been close friends with Bourdain ever since they shot an episode of "No Reservations" together in 2008, said the news "just hit me really hard" Friday.

"He had such a big heart and I felt that his loss is a loss to us in the culinary world—loss of inspiration and an eye-opener that you could have it all, but if deep down there is a demon, there‘s something that‘s bugging you, you need to talk to somebody about it," Vij told CTV News.

Bourdain was found unresponsive in his hotel room Friday by friend and fellow chef Eric Ripert in the French city of Haut-Rhin, where he was filming for the upcoming season of the CNN show "Parts Unknown." The 61-year-old‘s death is being called a suicide.

The show, which first went to air in 2013, became a major success and produced numerous memorable TV moments, including a famous appearance by then-U.S. president Barack Obama at a small roadside restaurant in Vietnam.

Vij said it was Bourdain‘s unwavering passion for different cultures and their foods and his unapologetic attitude that made him such a captivating storyteller.

"That joie de vivre, that attitude of his was also the reason why people felt that they could just tell him their story. He was almost like a little shrink for people. It would just feel easy and comfortable to speak their mind to him," he said.

In the title sequence of "No Reservations," Bourdain can be heard saying, "I write, I travel, I eat and I‘m hungry for more."

But Vij said it was Bourdain‘s ability to bring people together during that process that he‘ll be remembered for.

"He brought that element of togetherness, of breaking bread with people, having a conversation with people—just looking straight into your eyes and he talked," he said. "He made you feel like you need to spill your guts out to him."

From his humble beginnings in small New York City kitchens to the instant success of 2000 culinary tell-all "Kitchen Confidential" and the international recognition that ensued, Vij said Bourdain‘s unflinching honesty and nonchalance made him a culinary rebel that people wanted to live through vicariously, whether he was wielding the knife or the pen.

"I used to say to him jokingly: ‘You‘re like the Keith Richards of our industry. You don‘t care a damn about anybody. You do whatever exactly you want to do,‘" he said. "What I learned from him is just do who you are and be yourself and either people are going to get you or they‘re not going to get you—and who cares…He was earnest and straightforward. He didn‘t need to sugarcoat anything."

Hidekazu Tojo, the owner and chef at Vancouver sushi restaurant Tojo‘s, also appeared on Bourdain‘s programs.

On Friday, he said he is "very disappointed for his suicide."

"I‘ve been on many other cooking programs, but he made his a little bit different than others," Tojo said.

Bourdain‘s influence also allowed some of the businesses he visited in his shows to thrive.

Japadog founder and owner Noriki Tamura said his company only had two stalls when Bourdain featured the popular street food purveyor. Now, it has 11.

"Because of him we could expand," Tamura said. "That‘s why I am so sad. He gave us our dream."

Wayne Sych, the executive chef at Joe Forte‘s said Bourdain‘s loss will be felt across the culinary world.

"I couldn‘t believe it. I had to scroll through several social media channels to see if it was actually true and, yeah, I found out that it was," he said. "It‘s obviously devastating for our industry and chefs across the world because he was such an important figure to our industry."

It‘s clear from Bourdain‘s writing that he admired the work taking place in Canadian restaurants as much as so many of the country‘s chefs admires his—especially when it came to Montreal.

"I love Montreal. It is my favourite place in Canada," he said in a 2013 episode of "Parts Unknown."

"The people who live there are tough, crazy bastards, and I admire them for it. Toronto, Vancouver, I love you, but not like Montreal.”

Vij said Bourdain‘s death is a powerful and sobering reminder that anyone can fall into the grip of mental illness.

"I‘m so saddened by it because he was one person who had it all. He had the fame, he had the name, he thrived, he brought people together," Vij said.

"Obviously for him, the desire to take his own life was far bigger than his child and his partners and his friends and family and what he had done. It‘s so sad to see that somebody would be that depressed."

Amid the questions that now surround his death, all Vij and others whose lives Bourdain touched can do is try to get used to a world without him.

"My only wish was—and we had talked about it—was when he comes back to Vancouver we do another show together or any other part of the world and I would go with him and I would take him to different places in India or anywhere else and that dream‘s never going to come true."

With files from CTV Vancouver‘s David Molko