Wherein Andrew Zimmern went for the full Bourdain
July 27th, 2010
11:30 AM ET
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This just in, from tonight's ABC's Nightline, Bizarre Foods host Andrew Zimmern speaks about his journey from addict to a James Beard Award-winning food personality.

John Berman: It was a serious drug problem?

Andrew Zimmern: Oh very serious. Yeah – hard drug addict, alcoholic, la package totale.

Berman: So, we’re not talking about like dabbling in drugs?

Zimmern: Oh, no no no we’re talking about – let me see if I can paint the picture for you: I lived in an abandoned building in lower Manhattan; one that we squatted – a bottle gang and I. I would steal purses off the backs of chairs in those swanky little cafes on Madison Avenue, run down the side street, leap the wall at Central Park and 5th Avenue, get on the subway, go down to the lower east side and sell the credit cards and passports that were in the purses for money to support my drug and alcohol habit. And then go to sleep at night on a pile of dirty clothes in this abandoned building and I sprinkled a bottle of Comet Cleanser around so the rats and roaches wouldn’t cross over at night so I could pass out in some peace and quiet and that’s what I thought was normal. That’s how I lived for a year – no showering, I was the guy you crossed the street to avoid if you walked by me in New York.

Berman: It’s amazing. I mean, looking at you now, you look like my Uncle Murray. But it was that bad?

Zimmern: It was worse than that. I’d rather not scare you too much but you’re living the life where you are constantly beat up, abused, abusing other people, doing something horrifically shameful and tawdry things that crater your soul – you give away pieces of yourself that you swear you would never do. You know, I swore I would never talk to you like this and then reach into your jacket and take your wallet and those are the things that you do when you are being driven by the insanity and the compulsion of alcohol and drug addiction.

Berman: How much of a role in your life does that period now play?

Zimmern: The largest. I don’t know how to phrase it any other way. Any decision that I make, anything that I do, every single consideration of my day goes through the prism of what my former experience has been. And I have a life based on completely different principles now and I try to stick with those. I think it has been the secret to my success.

Watch the rest of the interview tonight on ABC's Nightline, 11:35 ET

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Filed under: Andrew Zimmern • Celebrity Chefs • News • Nightline • Television

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soundoff (133 Responses)
  1. bob

    Thief, mugger, no jail time? Guess I'll get a network show, too!

    July 7, 2014 at 9:32 pm |
    • bob

      for those of us that have tried to do everything right, why live your life with any virture. If you are a criminal that serves no jail time and you can become a celebrity. of course we have a lot of celebrities like that.

      July 7, 2014 at 9:53 pm |
  2. meizitang

    I would like to meizitang http://santwow.allmyblog.com/93-when-youe25262e-finished-lifting-weights.html to make sure that I am able to really feel assured in (or out) of my outfits, and i Really want to get in good shape.

    November 23, 2013 at 4:52 am |
  3. Darien

    Andrew Zimmern is my hero. He's a culinary arts genius, he's living the life I've always wanted to live and he's an inspiration. Anyone who can emerge from a situation like that and rise to the heights that he has... well, there's no more precise definition for "heroism" in my book.

    September 3, 2010 at 8:22 pm |
  4. Amy

    I say good for him. It's not easy to turn yourself around from that life, but it is possible, and it's something to be proud of. Living with addiction teaches a person a lot. I highly doubt that he is exaggerating (why would he?) and he certainly doesn't need to turn himself in for petty thefts from years ago. I'm certain he has been "punished" in other ways...like maybe sleeping with rats? I've been there myself and I also turned my life around and anyone who can't, at the very least, respect that should walk in an addict's shoes for one day. Everyone makes mistakes...it's how you fix them that matters.

    July 30, 2010 at 2:31 pm |
  5. joe little

    Bizarre Foods & Andrew Zimmern are news to us, good news at that. It sounds like AZ has been making nice progress since his time of living miserably here in Lower Manhattan where America's first rescue mission - nycrescue.org - has been working with addicts since 1872! I'm keen to learn if Zimmern ever got a bite to eat or night of rest here. Thank you for sharing his tale.

    July 29, 2010 at 4:48 pm |
  6. BigFish

    I find the show very entertaining and prefer to watch it when I can more than many other shows. The statements he made about his past (though shocking) is proof that you can turn your life around. Of course we dont commend his past, but congrats on redefining his future. Best wishes Andrew Zimmern

    July 28, 2010 at 10:02 am |
  7. Liz

    Although I never watch his show because of some of the foods he ingests I do admire him for having the determination to overcome his addictions and become a success. I counsel addicts and most of them are repeaters in the rehab program. He shows he has cojones to come forward and share his past with his public. I never watch Burdain at all and never wanted to due to his attitude on several shows before I quit watching.

    July 28, 2010 at 8:55 am |
  8. Lorenzo

    Did the drugs come before, after or during his career as a chef? Wikipedia says he checked himself into rehab in 1992, but just a few years later he was apparently an acclaimed chef.

    He's indeed like Bourdain's little brother.

    July 28, 2010 at 8:48 am |
  9. Susie

    My brother was a functioning alcoholic for 25 years and died three months ago at the age of 51 from cirrhosis. It is heartbreaking watching someone you love slowly kill themselves. The family never stopped trying to help him quit is addiction, but you eventually learn you can't help the addict unless they want to help themselves. He would do or say anything to anyone get money for beer or brandy. Unless you have witnessed this for yourself, you cannot begin to comprehend what a day in the life of the addict and their family is like. Andrew, I commend you on you the choice to turn your life around and the choice you make on a daily basis not to return.

    July 28, 2010 at 8:42 am |
  10. Jason

    Good for him for changing his life around. Some judge him for his past, yet forget that everyone has something in their life they regret. His may be more then others but I do not look down on his past as a person of ill repute. It should be uplifting that a person can actually change their life around that much. I know what drugs can do, and how they effect people, and I know how our culture is when hard drugs are mentioned, as well as theft. Judging someone is second nature, yet forgiving is nearly impossible for them.

    July 28, 2010 at 6:05 am |
  11. CJ

    guy's obviously addicted to food to travel the world eating boiled ducks head and pretend it's entertainment. ugh.

    July 28, 2010 at 3:17 am |
  12. Bebe

    I LOVE your show Andrew!!!

    July 27, 2010 at 9:41 pm |
    • Robbed

      He stole from your mother.

      July 27, 2010 at 9:44 pm |
  13. Robbed

    Oh yeah, he's a great guy. No need to "really" turn himself in. You know, statute of limitations, he's suffered enough, etc.

    Baloney! He stole from people. He sold their identities. Those people suffered. If you were one of the poor souls who spent months or perhaps even years trying to clean up the mess this man created, would you be praising him right now? If he is truly sorry for his prior mistakes, he certainly could work with the authorities to find out who he harmed. Police reports, dates and locations, fingerprints, and other evidence still exist. He could track down and help the people he hurt.

    But why would he do that? He's not REALLY sorry. He just wants a story. Publicity. Your oohs and aahs. The man is a pig.

    July 27, 2010 at 9:40 pm |
    • Amy

      I'm so sure he remembers the exact times, dates and places...and even the descriptions...of the purses he stole, especially considering he was either high or sick because he wasn't high. Be realistic.

      July 30, 2010 at 2:34 pm |
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