The Tragic Childhood Of Andrew Zimmern

Even amidst tragedy, there can be also be joy. This situation might well describe the childhood of Andrew Zimmern — an upbringing that both inspired his love of food and almost ruined his career at the same time. The Bizarre Foods host has previously shared about his childhood, which led him to meet some of the biggest names in the culinary scene and inspired his love of food. "My parents divorced when I was six, but stayed close," he told Food & Wine. "My dad moved downtown—it was kismet—to the West Village, where he befriended John Clancy, the Balduccis, James Beard—there was a whole sort of food mafia in the West Village." 

The celebrity chef told stories of having lunch at James Beard's house and trying new things like "squab and salted dried shrimp in lettuce" at Bo Bo's restaurant in Chinatown as a child. While his youth was idyllic in many ways, Zimmern's primary caretaker was his mother, who's life changed after a surgical complication (via Spotify – Back from Broken). "The mother that I knew for the first 13 years of my life, she was gone and she was replaced by someone else." This tragedy left the young foodie feeling more and more alone. While he had experimented before, Zimmern had reached a turning point. As a young teen, he was regularly drinking and had successfully completed his first drug deal. 

Andrew Zimmern's triumphant sobriety

By his senior year of high school, Zimmern explained in the podcast that he had already tried heroin. By college, he says that he was a daily drug user, including cocaine, pills, marijuana, and was drunk daily. "By college, I had a fairly healthy alcohol and drug problem and couldn't handle school," he explained to Food & Wine. Zimmern talked about how drugs and alcohol turned him away from school, but how he continued to cook. At his rock bottom, the young chef was living in an abandoned building, where he wasn't showering and was stealing for enough money for drugs and alcohol. 

The talented cook explained that it wasn't until he was 25 years sober that he was able to admit that he felt abandoned by his father and that he was "the ultimate latchkey kid." He was 30 years old before sobriety "stuck." Despite the tragedies of his childhood, Zimmern has overcome his challenges to become the success that he is today. He shared the story with his fans on Twitter and wrote, "I shared my recovery story on #BackfromBroken, a podcast about what it takes to survive/ thrive from the biggest challenges of your life." 

If you, or anyone you know, is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).