Was Anthony Bourdain’s First Wife a Vampire?

By Karen

The former Mrs. Bourdain, Nancy Putkoski, may be one of the undead because her image doesn’t show up on film. When Tony first hit the big time with his book, Kitchen Confidential, you’d think there’d be at least one shot online of him stepping out with his lady, but no.

Perhaps he cleverly camouflaged her as an extra – as he did Ottavia – in an early episode of No Reservations or A Cook’s Tour. You’d think Nancy would have wanted to accompany him to Paris.

But since no one knows what she looks like, she’s still invisible.

I just spent more time than I should have trying to find Nancy, but turned up only postings of other people hunting, too. However, I did find this sexy shot of Tony being compared to the late hunky actor, Victor Mature. It would turn Cats Working into a porn site to show it here, so you’ll have to look for yourself.

I also found (but couldn’t verify) that Tony and Nancy were married September 5, 1985, which was 7 years after they graduated from college. Since they were high school sweethearts, I wondered why the long wait to tie the knot.

Their divorce was final on April 5, 2007, and Ariane was born on April 9. So it’s understandable why Tony and Ottavia didn’t commit a block of time to nuptials during the 4 days he was free before she gave birth. They were married on April 20.

I found Nancy on Classmates.com at Vassar from 1974-78, which means she has a 30-year class reunion coming up. Tony left Vassar in 1975 to attend culinary school.

My next stop was Vassar’s Web site, where there might be a pocket of information, but I couldn’t access it because it’s not my alma mater.

So, if you’re a Bourdain-loving Vassar alum with member’s access to the site or old yearbooks, check out the class of 1978. If you find a photo of Nancy, please report back here. If her photo is a blank gray square, don’t tell me. I’d like to keep believing vampires are mythical.

Asha Gill has an amusing interview with Tony on her site, along with a cute photo of them together that a reader graciously contributed. Asha’s a bright, young, perky brunette who, except for her vegetarianism, seems like Tony’s kind of woman.

So the hunt for Nancy’s image continues, and I hope it doesn’t seem too weird. It’s not like anyone’s out to stake her. It’s just that in a culture overflowing with data and images, it’s eerie for someone to reach Bourdain’s celebrity status and have a phantom wife, ex or not. It’s probably too much to hope he’ll ever write an autobiography to fill in the blanks for his fans.

41 Responses to Was Anthony Bourdain’s First Wife a Vampire?

  1. another stalker says:

    Tony writes about Nancy accompanying him and four other women out for a night at the tapas bars of San Sebastian, Spain in “A Cook’s Tour” on page 72 in the chapter “Where the Boys Are/Where the Girls Are”. I have recorded that episode and captured freeze frames of the two of them together hugging.

  2. Barb says:

    I hate to burst your vampire bubble but there is footage of Nancy on A Cook’s Tour–the Portugal episode–she is the sort of short woman with long ight brown hair walking alongside Tony in one shot and then wearing a braid in a dinner scene where she glares at the camera–a hint as to why there are hardly any pics of her. I like the comparison of Tony with Victor Mature–he also makes me think of Jack Scalia (actor) and the young Elliot Gould. Re Asha Gill–now there’s a truly beautiful woman–IMHO, Ottavia can’t hold a candle to her! But Asha seems to have disappeared from public view–maybe she had a baby herself!

  3. catsworking says:

    Aha! Thank you, Stalker and Barb. So Nancy DID appear on camera. The man is diabolical in the way he slips these women right under our noses, then leaves us wondering. 🙂

    “A Cook’s Tour” was the first of his books that I ever read quite some time ago, so I wasn’t looking for Nancy clues at the time. It’s been like digging for needles in a haystack to catch all those episodes on tape because the Food Network’s online schedule lists stale air dates back to 2005, and the ones that are current aren’t always correct. I seem to keep catching the same few over and over. The Portugal episode is one I know I DON’T have. Drat! I’m not sure about Spain.

    Asha Gill’s Web site seems to be very outdated and I wondered what happened to her. She seemed like she could have given Samantha Brown a run for her money with the right breaks.

    By the way, what’s with Samantha Brown hawking storm windows? She’s literally EVERYWHERE. The connection between the endorsement and her TV persona escapes me.

  4. chico says:

    There is an entire episode of No Res (I think) that has Nancy and Tony on a “boat city” that travels around the world. I think I remeber them setting off the smoke alarms or something??

  5. catsworking says:

    I thought I’d seen all episodes of No Res, but I don’t remember one like that at all.

    However, I did follow up on the lead Another Stalker sent me from “A Cook’s Tour” and I am 99.99% sure I captured photos of Nancy last night in the Spain episode. I will be posting as soon as I transfer them. She showed up in my viewfinder, so I can say that relief that she definitely isn’t a vampire! Whew!

  6. Nickole says:

    Chico – you’re thinking of an article written in “Nasty Bits” where he went on an assignment on a luxury boat/yacht and Nancy is mentioned quite a bit in that piece. The only time I ever caught him wearing his wedding ring (before Ottavia) on No Reservations was the first Vietnam episode.

  7. MorganLF says:

    Helllllp!!! where is the naked Tony picture??? I’m crazed only a pic of a dog pops up…please don’t torture me like this…post it by God!

  8. catsworking says:

    Morgan, here’s the link again:

    http://forums.televisionwithoutpity.com/index.php?s=10f8b8aa2418732aa26352016a841103& showtopic=3170205&st=15&p=9984208&#entry9984208

    You have to scroll about 2/3 of the way down the page to see it. I just checked. It’s still there.

  9. catsworking says:

    The link is on 2 lines. Be sure to get it all and delete the space in the middle.

  10. MorganLF says:

    no luck I’m in the office…only see the dog will have to wait till I get home…dang it…I’m jazzed to see it!!

  11. Claudia says:

    Aside from the article in People from 2001, Nancy appeared in two episodes of A Cook’s Tour – the San Sebastian episode, in which Tony goes out drinking with four lovely women (the blonde one is Nancy), and the Stuffed Like A Pig episode, shot in Portugal, in which Tony chows down with his (ex) boss Jose’s family. The blonde with the round wire-rim glasses, again, is Nancy.

    Ottavia, too, has appeared in two episodes of NR – the infamous Tuscany episode, and in background shots, on the lanai (porch or deck) at the lu’au. Nancy kept a lower profile – Ottavia tends to go out to book signings and appearances more, and travels more. Ottavia is very, very funny, fiesty, down-to-earth and a real hoot, by the way – more than a match for her highly visible hubby (!)

  12. catsworking says:

    Claudia, thanks so much for the insight into Nancy and Ottavia. Sounds like NR might benefit from an episode where Tony and Ottavia have an adventure together.

  13. Jan says:

    I would like to meet Anthony. Does he ever come to Paso Robles, CA? Let’s do a wine tasting in the heart of the Central Coast Wine Region.
    The Wine Attic
    13th St. Ally
    Paso Robles, CA

  14. catsworking says:

    I have no inside track into Bourdain’s travel plans. I find them on the Internet like most people, and I have no idea if he’s even aware of Cats Working. So I’ll put your contact info out here, just in case he ever stops by. You never know. Good luck!

  15. Aanel says:

    It would be nice to have some valid citations for all of the info on this blog. It has been reported widely that Nancy and Bourdain were divorced in 2005. I see no reason to doubt this. Then some joker edited IMDB to read April 2008. That info isn’t sourced or cited, and is hardly credible.

    What sources are you citing, Cats? It would really be helpful to know. Thanks!

  16. catsworking says:

    Aanel, The links to where I found certain info may be in previous posts on the subject. I believe that Nancy and Tony split in 2004 or 2005, but their divorce didn’t become final until April 2007.

    I agree with you that many dates have been reported, but I stand by the ones I’ve posted because I believe they are fairly accurate.

    Before I post any facts here, I do try to verify with multiple reputable sources when I can. I try to avoid repeating anything that lacks credibility, or just provide links to the original material so readers can judge for themselves. Cats Working is certainly not trying to spread unfounded rumors, and much of what you read here is actually my own interpretation and opinion of what I view and read, but I’m not his official biographer.

    I would have to do some digging to find where I found the exact dates of Bourdain’s first marriage, but I’m not at my home computer right now, so that’s impossible at the moment.

  17. Aanel says:

    I’d appreciate the source(s) when you find them — you did not list any in your various other blog entires on Bourdain (I’ve read them all). If it was from IMDB, that’s a joke — some user vandalized that page. Bourdain’s divorce was reported in 2006 articles. Anyway, I’m the current guardian angel of Bourdain’s Wikipedia page, and I’m on a hunt to find a credible source (legal or offical document or magazine announcement — such as EW) to verify his divorce year. Thanks again.

  18. catsworking says:

    I did a lot of Googling to find some of the information I have on Bourdain, and I found exact dates on his first marriage and divorce, as well as everyone’s ages, his present and former addresses and phone numbers. I feel certain that info was all in various directories typically used in people searches.

    The reason I didn’t give links was to protect his privacy. I didn’t want to publicize what appears to be his current address and phone number, if it happened to be correct. Or his old one, if Nancy happens to still be in their apartment.

    I’m behind the eight ball here at the moment, having been out of town for several days. But if I get a chance to reconstruct some of my research, I’ll let you know where I found what. Nothing was in any secret places that you couldn’t access yourself if you looked.

  19. cpt.bustamante says:

    First of all i love to read the anthony bourdain section and i love this website, well while searching the web for AB fa i found a(n) article were AB talks about fatherhood and gives some facts about what it is like tobe a father. I just wanna add one more thing ANTHONY BOURDAIN kicks @$$. the website is the NEW YORK POST – ANTHONY BOURDAIN

  20. catsworking says:

    Thanks, cpt.bustamante, for the tip! Welcome to Cats Working!

  21. cpt.bustamante says:

    your welcome catsworking.I like reading all the AB comments on this and other pages on your website.i will keep you posted if i find any other sites about AB.

  22. Hi Tony, we are having drinks the way you do it. I am from Nicaragua a country that has not been explored because of political situation. I would love to invite you to visit my beautiful country. In reality my country is so gorgeous, I know you heard this before, but believe me is so beautiful when you go you will say she was so right. So,
    looking forward to hearing about you, and hope to meet you soon. We love you sooooo much, much: Truly your, Marthdi.

    You will never regret it and to try our Flor the Cana, you will love it. It is the best Ron in Nicaragua. I will be your personal tourist guide
    without a charge, will be a pelasure to do it. I admire you so much, the same my comadre Diana. We love you, we never miss your shows even when they are the same bs.

  23. Esther Kritharakis says:

    My dear Tony: Happy New Year. I have been watching the new episodes and allow me to say I love each and every one of them. The Travel Channel could not have picked a better candidate for this show made for tv. By the way, congratulations are in order. You stopped smoking? Good for you. You have a healthier glow, and look rested. Not that you did not look good before, but now is 100% excellent. God be with you.

    Oh! One more comment. You and Andrew make the perfect team. Honestly sometimes I become stomack sick when I see Andrew eat gross stuff, but I guess that is part of the show. Keep up the good work.

    Esther K.

  24. catsworking says:

    Esther, I happened to catch a rerun of “Bizarre Foods” last night when Andrew Zimmern played host to Anthony Bourdain in New York. Although they’re both willing to eat some nasty bits, they don’t seem temperamentally suited to team up. I think I’ve read that Zimmern is a teetotaler.

  25. ladydiana1956 says:

    Yes Anthony Bourdain would be a very cool guy to hang out with…

  26. Jeannified says:

    Saw Nancy in the Spain/Portugal episode. Very plain, surprisingly. She seemed stand-offish too!

  27. catsworking says:

    Hi, Jeannified. Bourdain has described Nancy as quite a tough cookie in his books, Kitchen Confidential and A Cook’s Tour. I’m sure she never expected him to become famous, especially after he wrote a first novel that basically laid there for 5 years in obscurity because he wrote KC. Certainly, from the little glimpses we’ve seen of her on the show A Cook’s Tour and in that People article, she never tried to glam up to be a celebrity wife, but seemed perfectly happy in the background.

    Like his second wife, Ottavia, Nancy strikes me as a down-to-earth type who wouldn’t hesitate to tell him what’s what. Plus, I never saw a peep out of her after they separated, so she never tried to use him to bring attention to herself. Only he and she know what split them up, but her silence indicates to me she’s a class act.

  28. Renate says:

    What Tony did is soooo not unusual. Commendable? No. But very common. I too actually am an invisible ex-wife (27 years together) of a guy who’s now well known publically in the US (although by no means at the Bourdain level). He left me for a gal 17 years his junior. It happens all the time. Now, if I could only get him to support his child’s college education, I’d take that as a victory and remain happily invisible. I’m watching the Sardinia episode of No Reservations now, which inpired me to google Ottavia.

  29. david says:

    There is a picture of Nancy in our yearbook. I have a few of my own pictures of her and Tony. We were classmates and acquaintances with both of them at Vassar. She was a sweetheart from Rochester NY. Tony did his share of drugs in those days, we all did, sometimes together. He had long curly hair then (didn’t we all). Those were great days. He hasn’t really changed that much, in appearance of course. Even though he went through some hard times with drugs later as I understand. I also married a classmate, as a lot of us did, not so unusual that Tony and Nancy didn’t make it. Not all VC marriages have. My wife married Vassar guys twice, I’m the second.

  30. catsworking says:

    Welcome, David! We always enjoy hearing from people who can say, “I knew Tony when…”

    Tony and Nancy’s marriage lasted nearly 30 years, so I’d say they gave it a great try, any substance abuse issues notwithstanding. I’ve never seen or heard him say an unkind word about her, so I believe they just had a parting of the ways when his fame drastically changed his lifestyle and outlook. It was unfortunate, but probably a blessing in disguise because he seems to have settled into a much healthier way of life when he’s not on the road, and I think he’s genuinely delighted to be a dad, even though he never thought he’d make a good one.

  31. catsworking says:

    Welcome, Renate! Sorry to hear that you’re in the First Wives’ Club, but it sounds like you’ve got a good attitude about it.

    I used to date older men myself, although I never broke up anyone’s marriage. But now that I’m older and see all the broken-down fogies who are MY age, I wonder if these younger women who marry much older men aren’t going to regret it when they have to become nurses to their husbands.

    And just for the record, Bourdain didn’t leave Nancy for Ottavia. He was at loose ends and dating other women for quite a while before Eric Ripert’s wife introduced him to Ottavia. I suspect perhaps he got bruised by the brutality of today’s dating scene (one former girlfriend was particularly snarky after their breakup), so he was ripe when Ottavia came along. She’s very feisty and salt-of-the-earth (not to say that Nancy wasn’t — I know nothing beyond what little he has written about her), and Ottavia comes from a large, loving Italian family. It was apparently just what Tony needed to ground him and give him a sense of belonging he seems to have craved.

    I hope Nancy has gotten on with her life and is having her own happily ever after.

  32. MorganLF says:

    “A shocking number of vegetarians and even vegans have come to my readings….I have even knowingly had sex with one, truth be told”

    From page 258 “Medium Raw”. Asha Gill, busted! 😀

  33. catsworking says:

    Morgan, I never even thought of Asha Gill, but you’re probably right. You have a mind like a steel trap!

  34. MorganLF says:

    I was just re-reading the post and the passage in MR came to mind, I can’t claim to actually remembering her.

    As you know Medium Raw gives a connect-the-dots closure to a lot of questions we have speculated about over the years, especially about Nancy so I have been re-reading the old posts about her on this blog.

    More on that when I comment on chapter 19.

  35. Robbin Spood says:

    I am confused, I read an article he died in 2010 of a heart attack while on his tour rounds. Is that true?

  36. catsworking says:

    Robbin, you must be thinking of someone else. Bourdain is all over the place, and he’s getting a second show on Travel Channel called The Layover which debuts in November.

    Shoot, he made it onto the first hour of the Today Show just this morning for the nasty things he said to TV Guide recently about Paula Deen.

    I haven’t written much about him lately, but if you poke around the archives, you can pretty much bring yourself up to speed on Bourdain. I assume you’re interested, since you seemed to find Cats Working on a post about Nancy.

  37. brenda espinosa says:

    I love his shows, especially the one in Finland where he states, i believe, “my balls are freezing”. He’s always good for a good laugh. I also liked his show on Cuba, very interesting and down-to-earth.

  38. chef says:

    um….it’s none of our business.

  39. catsworking says:

    Welcome, Brenda! Yes, Tony has said many classic, testicular lines. It’s only one of his many talents.

    Welcome, chef. Point taken, but someone must have been Googling “Bourdain’s wife” to have come across this very old post.

  40. Sally Forth says:

    I just finished reading “Medium Raw.” The last several chapters contain several wonderful and self revealing vents by Mr. Bourdain. In the only negative mention I’ve ever heard about his first wife, he laments/questions why she would not get a job with her Vassar degree and some little white collar job experience. I too, wonder – not that it’s any of my business. But she was busy taking care of him and his drug problems, and “working the system” (his words) to keep a roof over their head when he was making bukus at some of the dives during their hard times? Was she somehow “damaged” and unable to face a 9-5 or was she possibly a woman of her time caught between taking care of her man (a handful) and striking out on a job/career of her own? Any speculations or knowledge?

  41. catsworking says:

    Welcome, Sally. You’re a little late to the party, but better late than never.

    Nobody here (at least, none of the current commenters) is acquainted with Nancy, but others who claimed to know her personally have chimed in from time to time saying she had a drug problem as well, so she and Tony enabled each other.

    As for her long-term unemployment, she kind of reminds me of myself. I worked in Corporate America for decades until I found it almost impossible to drag myself out of the bed one more morning and face another IDIOT at work. So I struck out on my own and have been freelancing from home for 10 years because I have nobody else bringing in a paycheck.

    Nancy is obviously very bright, and she may have found it impossible to play senseless corporate games and stroke egos that would be better served with a kick in the ass. Tony’s the same way, which is how he ended up working with motley crews in restaurant kitchens. But why Nancy didn’t find SOME kind of niche for herself is a mystery.

    If you go to the home page here, you’ll find the chapter-by-chapter discussion we had of Medium Raw when it was first published. Since it’s all so fresh in your mind, I’m sure you’ll find the posts and comments interesting. Feel feel to comment as well yourself, and someone is bound to jump in, if only me.

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