By Gina Martinez
June 8, 2018

Eric Ripert called Anthony Bourdin his “best friend” in a heartfelt post about his longtime TV companion Friday.

Ripert, the co-owner and executive chef of Le Bernardin in New York City, found Bourdain dead in his hotel room in France just hours earlier, CNN reported.

Authorities said the beloved chef, author and TV presenter committed suicide. He was 61.

Ripert was in France to film an episode of Bourdain’s CNN show Parts Unknown.

“Anthony was my best friend. An exceptional human being, so inspiring & generous. One of the great storytellers who connected w so many. I pray he is at peace from the bottom of my heart. My love & prayers are also w his family, friends and loved ones.” Ripert wrote.

Ripert met Bourdain more than 20 years ago while they were working in New York City restaurants.

The two collaborated frequently on screen, with Ripert usually playing the “straight man” – whom Bourdain gleefully tormented with spicy food and wild adventures.

Italian actress Asia Argento, who had been dating Bourdain since last year, released a statement earlier Friday, calling Bourdain, “my love, my rock, my protector.”

Write to Gina Martinez at gina.martinez@time.com.

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