‘My whole life was focused on drugs.’ Miami chef talks addiction

Chef Danny Serfer can't remember the first time he cooked a meal or the best dish he's ever tasted — but he can remember the first time he did drugs. Serfer is a recovering alcoholic and drug addict going on 10 years of recovery.Jose Iglesias

This is how Danny Serfer knows he’s an addict.

“I can’t tell you the first time I cooked something or the best thing I’ve ever eaten, but I can tell you when I did my first drug, whatever it was,” the Miami-born chef says, sitting in a booth at one of his three Miami restaurants, Mignonette Uptown.

Serfer, 36, nurses a glass of water as the scent of oysters on the half shell baking fills the restaurant at lunchtime. Ten years in recovery has shown him how only drugs stood out in the haze of a blurred, drug-addled memory.

The first time he smoked marijuana? Oct. 26, 1994. He was 13 when he convinced the family nanny to score him his first joint. April 15, 1996: He ate hallucinogenic mushrooms and went to a Grateful Dead/Phish concert. He was 15.

Nov. 15, 1996: He dropped acid and went to the Broward County Youth Fair with a pair of friends, tripping on LSD.

“My whole life was focused on drugs in one way or another,” he said.

And that was just the beginning. Milestones and tragedies in Serfer’s young life were tinged by his drug use.

He was stoned at 15 the day his father suffered a stroke in the next room and later died. He was 21 and stealing Vicodin and Xanax pills from his mother during the year she was dying of breast cancer. And when he was named sous chef of the landmark and long-running Aventura restaurant Chef Allen at 26, he was staying up all night binging in an obsessive cycle of cocaine and marijuana, prescription drugs and enough beer and bourbon that it took sleeping pills to get to bed and cocaine to get to work on time in the morning.

“I was doing what a drug addict does,” he says.

READ MORE in the Miami Herald: ‘My whole life was focused on drugs.’ Miami chef talks addiction in the industry