Andrew Zimmern & Other Sober Chefs Talk Recovery, Career Success

“If I wasn’t sober I couldn’t have done any of the things I’m known for,” Andrew Zimmern said in a recent interview about chefs and sobriety.

Working in the restaurant industry while maintaining recovery may not seem like an easy feat, but more and more individuals are taking it on. 

Men’s Health recently spoke to five male chefs living in recovery: Andrew Zimmern, the host of Bizarre Foods; Portland chef Gabriel Rucker, known for restaurants Le Pigeon, Little Bird, and Canard; southern chef Sean Brock; Gregory Gourdet, executive chef of Departure restaurants and Top Chef contestant; and Michael Solomonov, co-founder of CookNSolo in Philadelphia. 

The men, in one way or another, all attribute their success to their ability to maintain their recovery. Zimmern has been in recovery for 27 years and tells Men’s Health that if not for his recovery, he would not be alive. 

“If I wasn’t sober I couldn’t have done any of the things I’m known for,” Zimmern said. “I’d definitely be dead. I had a very, very low bottom. I was an alcoholic, a drug addict, a homeless, abandoned-building-squatting thief the last year that I was using. I was 100 percent and completely a taker of things and a user of people.”

As is typical, the men say there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to maintaining sobriety. Zimmern is a believer in 12-step programs, as is Rucker, who recently celebrated five years in recovery. 

“For me, my path of sobriety is through using AA and the 12 steps; those things are applicable to everything in life,” he said. “There’s that and then I don’t smoke cigarettes anymore, I don’t drink. I wake up early. I’m at the gym by 4 a.m. boxing and working out six days a week. I take care of myself. I think about what I eat. My passions have switched from getting fucked up and partying to going to bed early, waking up and seeing what kind of circuit I can do.”

Brock is newer to recovery, announcing his sobriety in July 2017. He tells Men’s Health that therapy has played a major role in his recovery, and that he wants to bring the tools that have helped him into his new venture. 

“I’m opening a pretty neat restaurant in Nashville where one of the big focuses will be creating a safe place for people to work,” he said. “There’s going to be a full-on soundproof mindfulness room where I hope to share all of my daily practices with a team on how to stay centered and grounded and happy.”

Gourdet, who is approaching 10 years of sobriety, tells Men’s Health that his recovery has changed over the years, as has the way he views health and the world.

“I have a voice in my community and in my country, and a lot of the political issues are actually food issues, and that has been a great platform for me to be able to express myself and learn and feel like I’m doing something for our country and our community,” he said. 

Solomonov has also been sober 10 years, and says the growth of the sober chef community has been rewarding and comforting.

“[Now that there’s a community of chefs in recovery], it feels amazing,” he tells Men’s Health. “There’s a place for us to go to now, a place for us to talk… You’ve got people in our industry who are super successful that are talking about vulnerability and things that as a culture we swept under the rug for a very long time. There wasn’t a place to talk about this stuff before. And now there is.”

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