Chef, author, and TV Host, CNN's Parts Unknown
"I wake up early. Any writing I did during my career in the restaurant business required that I do it before a 12-hour-or-more shift in the restaurant. So I'm a morning person. I try and get done as much as I can before noon. Any notes on editing for the show, or editing a manuscript, or any important conversations—those are best done in the morning. I'm at my most productive before I even have my first cup of coffee. I only get slower and stupider as the day progresses.
I'm honestly the first person on set. I'm there in the lobby waiting for the camera crew. As a chef, I spent so many years in a business with a lot of moving parts, and when I'm in a situation where there are a lot of things to do, I'm very organized. I relentlessly check and double-check that all of the little pieces are moving the way they're supposed to be moving. Holding it together is clearly part of my pathology. I like to be in control. Even on summer vacation, I write a menu of what I'm going to be cooking for dinner.
I'm a big believer in momentum. As an ex-abuser of drugs, I'm not a person who should have any pleasurable interruptions. Inactivity, time for reflection—these are not good for me. I work a lot, do a lot of different things, but I think in some ways I'm overcompensating for the inner, hidden knowledge that somewhere deep inside me there's a lazy hippie waiting to get out, that if I'm given the opportunity, I'd lay down on the couch, turn on Adventure Time or The Simpsons, smoke a joint, and lay there for the next six months. If I go to work, I'm going to do things. I keep at them.
I have an assistant. She's a huge help. There's got to be somebody to receive the emails and phone calls or my head would explode. Soon after we started working together, she became pregnant and had a child. I'd had a child just prior to that, so I understood what that meant. I structured our relationship so that just about everything I needed done could be done over the phone or by email or text. We rarely meet, though I like her very much. I don't need somebody standing next to me with a hairbrush or telling people not to come up to me."
"It doesn't matter what time zone I'm in, I'm usually up at 6 a.m." First thing he does each morning: Check email.
"I use a Google calendar, which is synced with my assistant." Also: "I keep lists."
"It was pounded into me when I started washing dishes years ago that you show up on time. It's just hugely important to me that you show that respect."
"On location, I'll have a dinner or bar scene for the show, so I will stagger home and collapse into bed. If I'm home, I'll watch TV."
9 p.m., "when my daughter goes to bed. Frequently she crawls in with us. By 10, I'm asleep."
A version of this article appeared in the December 2013 / January 2014 issue of Fast Company magazine.