Chef Andrew Zimmern On His Addiction: "I Was A Dangerous Mess"

By Bryan Le 12/04/17

"The pain inside was unimaginable and indescribable. Thankfully I don’t feel that way or live that way anymore."

Andrew Zimmern and Alex Guarnaschelli
Bizarre Foods host Andrew Zimmern with Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli

The host of Bizarre Foods shared a "Throwback Thursday" picture on Instagram of a time in his life when he struggled with alcohol abuse.

“Throwaway your life throwback Thursday pic #tbt ... 1982 or so, deranged drunk and drugged,” he captioned the photo. “I was a dangerous mess and still took almost a decade to sober up. #keepitgreen #odat #grateful I don’t think I ever posted a pic like this before. The smile on the outside is a mask. The pain inside was unimaginable and indescribable. Thankfully I don’t feel that way or live that way anymore.”

Photo via Instagram

Before hitting it big on television tasting strange foods all over the world, he struggled with habits he carried since high school.

“I’m really a New York City garbage-head at heart. I found marijuana and alcohol in the first couple of years of high school,” he told The Fix in an exclusive interview. “By the time I was done with high school I was a daily pill addict, a daily cocaine addict.”

His substance abuse kept him in trouble early in his career as a fresh out-of-college chef.

“I came to realize in my 20s that something was horribly wrong—I blamed it on the hard drugs,” he recalled. “And it was easier to kick hard drugs with an alcohol and marijuana maintenance program. By the time I went just to pot and booze, I was totally unemployable. I was so hopeless; I was just waiting to die.”

At a low point, he even snatched purses off the backs of chairs in swanky Manhattan restaurants. He finally got things together after buying a one-way ticket to Minneapolis to attend a rehab program. 

“I got a one-way ticket and a bed waiting for me, courtesy of my friends. The first week was a blur,” he recounted. “But I always tell people that looking back, at that point I was ready. I would have sobered up in a liquor store at that point, I guess.”

As he got clean, he started work as a dishwasher, making his way up to chef and then to television personality. His main ingredient to his success, he says, is sobriety.

“Everybody asks me: ‘What’s the secret of success in television?’ because everyone thinks it’s such a good job,” he said.  “And everyone in recovery also asks: ‘What’s the secret of success in recovery?’ And for both, the answer is the same. You just chop wood, carry water. It really is that simple.”

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Bryan Le grew up in the 90's, so the Internet is practically his third parent. This combined with a love for journalism led him to The Fix. When he isn't fulfilling his duties as Editorial Coordinator, he's obsessing over fancy keyboards he can't justify buying. Find Bryan on LinkedIn or Twitter