Chef Mike Solomonov revealed in the New York Times this weekend the extent of his struggle with drug addiction: Namely, that he was addicted to crack cocaine and heroin, and that he was using when he opened Zahav in 2008.
Solomonov (also co-owner of Percy Street BBQ, Federal Donuts, Dizengoff, and upcoming Abe Fisher) had spoken publicly about his addiction before, but never in such detail. This Sunday's frank recounting to columnist and former food critic Frank Bruni is highly personal, detailing the specific ways he managed to score drugs without his wife and coworkers finding out, and delving into the emotions Solomonov couldn't cope with following the 2003 death of his brother, David.
Solomonov told Bruni that he "was the guy who always did a little too much," in college, even dealing drugs and once having his stomach pumped following an overdose of Xanax and cocaine. After that experience, he says, he eased off, and eventually began traveling and training to be a chef. His addiction would later spiral out of control in the aftermath of David's death, while Solomonov was working at Vetri.
"This is a horrible thing to say, but of the two of us, if one should have ended up dead at a young age, he didn't deserve it," [Solomonov] said, shaking his head.
When Mary Solomonov, Mike's wife since 2006, discovered the truth, she and business partner Steve Cook urged Mike into rehab and recovery programs, even administering random drug tests herself. Despite years of sobriety, Solomonov is forthcoming about the extent to which addiction is an ongoing battle: when his wife spent the night in the hospital after giving birth to the couple's first son, he admits, his impulsive reaction to being home alone was to turn to thoughts of scoring drugs. But now, he says, he's found solace in his cooking as a way to pay tribute to his brother.
As to why he chose to open up about his story now, Solomonov told Bruni that with all of his success and pursuant attention (in addition to being in the midst of opening two more restaurants, Solomonov will be featured in an upcoming PBS documentary), he felt a responsibility to be more honest about "how easily all of this might have slipped away":
"Nobody expects somebody like me to be a recovering crackhead," he said. "I felt I was holding back."