-- Being a celebrity chef is like being a rock star. The fame, the money, the drugs, and the wild lifestyle can lift a man higher than he'd ever dreamed--or devour him. It's a trap not everyone is able to escape, but for Todd Hall, award-winning chef and restaurateur, escape came at a heavy price. Now in his autobiography, two-time James Beard honoree and former child prodigy Todd Hall opens up about his past, the childhood that forged him, the addictions that almost broke him and the career that saved him. An addictive read about an extraordinary life and the man who survived it, Appetite for Excess: A Chef's Story is as large and compelling as the man who lived it and survived.
"Much has been written about me. As one of the top chefs in the country, I have been profiled in the media a lot. But there are things in the book that nobody knows, and I believe it's necessary to talk about them now. I'm on a mission to find solutions to the problem of addiction."
So says Todd Hall, who began his formal training at the age of 15 under the direction of Roget Cortello, CEC AAC, becoming the youngest graduated apprentice to earn certification from the American Culinary Federation. By 19, Hall was the chef de cuisine at Le Parisienne, a fine French restaurant in Salt Lake City. Over a 30-year career, Hall has been the Executive Chef of La Posada de Santa Fe, Chateau du Sureau, L'Auberge de Sedona, Paradise Valley Resort, and Los Abrigados Resort & Spa. He also has served as a consultant to numerous other hotels and resorts.
Hall earned acclaim and fame at a young age, but he also paid the price. "I started getting all these awards," Hall recalls, "and I felt like a big shot. My head got ahead of me," said Hall. "I used drugs recreationally. In the 1980's, that's just what people did, especially in the food and beverage industry. Everyone did drugs: weed and coke. It was a lifestyle. In the restaurant industry, you need something to keep you going. Even my bosses looked the other way. As long as I was making money for them, they looked the other way. They helped me keep my secret and enabled me to feed my addiction."
But, after awhile, Hall found himself using cocaine every day. At that point, according to Hall, "You become a jerk. You lose your job. That stops the cocaine use quickly, because you can't afford it. So you get another job. You stop using for awhile. Then, a few months later, you begin again. You become entangled in a downward spiral. If you're fortunate, you find a way out. I did, but that happened only after I was shot in a drug deal gone wrong and was nearly killed. And after I'd denied the truth about the incident for years."
While Hall finally got his drug use under control, his son wasn't as lucky. "He started to use Oxy, and then he began to smoke heroin. I tried to help him, but ultimately, I failed him. You can't take away someone else's demons. We all have to do that on our own. At age 29, my son overdosed on heroin, and it hurt me more than anything on Earth. He died with a needle in his arm at two o'clock in the morning. His girlfriend found him. Before that, he had been clean for a year. There's no explaining why he decided to use heroin again after all that time."
As Hall points out, his son's story isn't an isolated incident. "Every day, you turn on the TV set, and you see parent after parent after parent who has suffered the same loss. This addiction epidemic is real. It happens to people from all walks of life, from coast to coast, all the time."