Chefs, Celebrity and Otherwise, and Addiction
When a chef is significantly overweight, do you immediately think food addiction? If you saw Douglas McNish a few years ago (he’s executive chef at Raw Aura in Toronto) and thought food addiction, you’d be right. He weighed 270 pounds, says the website Blisstree. But McNish was also struggling with a drug addiction, the site says, and had to put his career on hold and enter treatment.
The chef said he was hooked on pain killers at age 14 (he doesn’t elaborate) and moved on to morphine and codeine. Today he’s not only clean and sober, he’s a vegan and raw food aficionado. Here’s what he says about food. (Doesn’t it sound like it could be right out of a Malibu Beach Recovery Diet cookbook?)
“At least for me, food is the single biggest thing that can affect us as human beings. It can control mood, control where we are in life, and I truly believe it can control success. When you eat something like kale, your mood improves, your skin looks better, you feel better… So absolutely, food is very important.”
McNish isn’t exactly at the level of Anthony Bourdain and other celebrity chefs yet, but the vegan and raw lifestyle is so popular that one day he might be. His website says he has a second cookbook coming out. As for Bourdain, more than 10 years ago USA Today said he was lucky to be alive. For five years he was a heroin addict, and five years after that he was on methadone. This best-selling author of the memoir, “Kitchen Confidential” grew wistful in the article when talking about his addiction: “I just like heroin, it feels really good. But I can’t do it anymore.”
Bourdain has authored two other books and appeared on Bravo’s Top Chef program numerous times, as well as on TLC’s reality show Miami Ink. In May he announced he was leaving his Travel Channel show, No Reservations. He also appeared on another celebrity chef’s show the channel, Bizarre Foods With Andrew Zimmern, mentioned below.
If you watch Iron Chef America and follow celebrity chef Cat Cora, then perhaps you’ve learned of her June arrest for DUI. (The video is no longer available but see the article below the spot where the video would be. It says she replaced the photo with a better one.) In another article Cora says she only drove after drinking to excess because her personal driver wasn’t available and she deeply regrets it. She also co-hosts the TV show Around the World in 80 Plates, and was signed to cook at the Elton John AIDS Foundation 20th Annual Academy Awards Party.
Does Cat Cora have a problem? If so, that hasn’t been made public. Some people may look at the fact that she drinks ouzo at the end of a round of Iron Chef and be doubly suspicious, while others won’t be bothered by that at all.
Andrew Zimmern, celebrity chef who hosts Bizarre Foods With Andrew Zimmern on the Travel Channel, has been extremely open about his addiction. A February post on the Michael’s House blog reminded me that Zimmern was featured in a Meet the Parents Hour on The Partnership for Drugfree.org’s Facebook page. (Michael’s House is another CA treatment center.) Here’s a link to his story on YouTube.
Zimmern grew up in a wealthy New York City family and started drinking at age 13. He attributes that to a lack of self-confidence and the fact that alcohol was all around him in NY. Over 18 years he spiraled down farther and farther as his drinking worsened. His parents disowned him, he lost everything and he ended up homeless.
Zimmern has been sober for 20 years and is a father now. In 2010 he won the James Beard Award for Outstanding TV Personality. Here’s a link to his story on YouTube.
The chefs at Malibu Beach Recovery Center are always in the spotlight because they’re all so good and because healthy food is so intrinsic to the Malibu Beach Recovery program. Lately they’ve been busy contributing to the forthcoming Malibu Beach Recovery Diet cookbook. Food addiction may come to mind more than substance abuse when it comes to those who cook professionally for the rest of us. But that ignores the point that addiction doesn’t discriminate among professions.
Photos (top to bottom) Douglas McNish, Anthony Bourdain, Andrew Zimmern