Jesse Schenker is the author of the memoir All or Nothing: One Chef's Appetite for the Extreme, which details his career as a chef as well as his recovery from drug addiction. He is executive chef and owner of The Gander and Recette, both in New York City, where he lives.
Q: Why did you decide to write this memoir, and how hard was it to write about the more difficult parts of your addiction?
A: About two years ago, I began taping my history with no intention of writing a book or turning it into anything or selling it. It was very cathartic. I realized I needed to give back (one of the staple beliefs of AA) and show people that hard work and dedication can make a difference. If you're suffering from addiction, there's hope. You don't have to go to the deep, dark places that I did.
Q: In the book, you write, "I may have been clean, but my addictive behavior never went away." How did that addictive behavior show up in your successful career as a chef, and how do you manage it?
A: The same intensity that got me up every morning to do drugs, I put that into cooking. It's all or nothing for me.
Q: You write that "my time on the streets and in jail prepared me well for the crazy process of opening a restaurant in New York City." How did it help you?
A: Rather than evading reality, I focus on mindfulness, my two restaurants and time with my family. Being in the kitchen has been and always will be this kind of natural Xanax for me and it's been my saving grace.
Q: You give your parents a lot of credit for your recovery, stating, "I was in awe of the way they cut me off at the knees right when I needed it." How did that moment change the trajectory of your life?
A: Changing my life wasn't easy - it's definitely a dark story but it has very much a light at the end of the tunnel.
Q: Are you thinking of writing another book?
A: Yes, a cookbook.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb