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Podcast 110: Chef Michael Chernow on What Drives Him to Perform

February 9, 2021

Chef, businessman and athlete Michael Chernow joins the WHOOP Podcast to detail his journey to sobriety, the importance of gratitude and what inspires him to perform in life.

By Will Ahmed

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Michael Chernow discusses overcoming adversity and what he’s learned along the way, and shares how that motivates him to this day. He also talks about how he’s learned to balance being a father, husband, fitness freak, and successful businessman all at the same time.

Stay healthy and stay in the green!


Chef Michael Chernow Podcast Show Notes:

2:09 – Finding His Passion as a Teenager. Michael details how he got started in the restaurant industry at the age of 13. “From an early age, I always wanted things. … I was a doer from as early as I can remember as well. When I found out that a friend of mine was working at a restaurant, I said ‘Dude, you’ve gotta get me a job.’”

5:14 – Getting Sober. Michael details his journey to sobriety. “I overdosed when I was 23 on drugs. I said that night that I was not going to ever partake in that again, I thought that was it, but I found myself right back in the same spot later on. I made the decision that I was either going to die or try to die. That’s where I was. I was spiritually bankrupt, mentally defeated, and physically a waste of space. That’s how I felt about myself at that point. I marched down this terrible path. … I walked into a meeting of Alcohol’s Anonymous and that was the end of it. I’ve been sober for the last 16 years.”

8:24 – Fitness and Sobriety. “Ultimately what saved my life and continues to save my life on a daily basis is fitness. … Fitness is my medicine.”

9:56 – Relentless. Michael recommends the book Relentless by Tim Grover.

11:47 – Using WHOOP. “WHOOP has changed a lot for me. I really understand how imperative sleep is to success. I did not pay enough attention to my sleep at all. I was happy with 5.5 to 6 hours of sleep and that’s what I was used to and that’s what I did. … I now get pretty damn close to 8 hours of sleep, and it’s very good sleep.”

15:12 – Skipping Training on Red Days. “If [my WHOOP recovery] is in the red, I do not train. … I used to just plow through it. I did an experiment on myself and I said, ‘If I’m in the red, I’m not going to train’ and sure enough I don’t train and the next day, most of the time, I’m back in the green.”

17:51 – Using Wearable Tech. “I think wearable technology, for the most part, is all about how hard you are training. I don’t use WHOOP for my strain. I don’t need something to tell me how hard I’m training. I know that I’m going hard. I do, however, need something to tell me to slow the [expletive] down.”

21:31 – Learning Patience. “This idea of being patient with myself [is new]. I would never take 2 days off in a row, but now I train Monday through Friday most of the time. I can’t say I owe it all to WHOOP, but I can say that WHOOP has really, really helped change my perspective on performance recovery.”

22:21 – Becoming a Bodybuilder. Michael details how he transitioned from being an endurance athlete to becoming a professional bodybuilder.

28:47 – Kickboxing. “I was focused on Muay Thai kickboxing,” Michael says of the time period immediately after getting sober. “I replaced all of my addiction. The guys that helped me out, these two dudes that I thought were the coolest guys ever, they knew that I was going through some stuff but I did not know that they were sober. They dragged me into a boxing gym and they threw me in the ring and they said, ‘Man, you need to get your [expletive] ass kicked. That’s what you need,’ I said, ‘Alright, let’s go.’ … I fell in love with it. I was training for 4 hours a day. I was an animal.”

34:34 – Work-Life Balance. “I don’t work 90 hours a week anymore. I don’t believe that the all-or-nothing, work til you’re dead mentality is a successful way to life at all. And I did it. And yes, did it work for me at the time? It did, but there were other areas of my life that suffered and I don’t think that’s necessary.”

37:39 – Gratitude. “Gratitude is the unlock,” Will says. “If you can be hard driving and grateful along the way, you can continue on [towards success].”

40:41 – Learning from Failure. “I say, ‘Let’s fail, let’s [expletive] fail.’ If we don’t feel like we made any mistakes, we’re not going at it as hard as we should be.”

41:02 – The Restaurant Bounce Back. Michael explains why he’s confident that the restaurant industry will bounce back in a big way as 2021 progresses. “I know the restaurant industry isn’t going anywhere. … Just because you break your leg and it takes you a few years to get back up to running speed doesn’t mean you’re not going to run again.”

44:35 – Post-Pandemic World. Will references Dr. Nicholas Christakis’ recent appearance on the WHOOP Podcast and why cities could be in line for a big recovery after the pandemic is over.

Connect with Michael on Instagram and Twitter, and listen to his podcast, Born or Made.

Check our Michael’s restaurants Seamore’s and The Meatball Shop.


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Will Ahmed

Will Ahmed is the Founder and CEO of WHOOP, which has developed next generation wearable technology for optimizing human performance and health. WHOOP members include professional athletes, Fortune 500 CEOs, fitness enthusiasts, military personnel, frontline workers and a broad range of people looking to improve their performance. WHOOP has raised more than $400 million from top investors and is valued at $3.6 billion, making it the most valuable standalone wearables company in the world. Ahmed has recruited an active advisory board that consists of some of the world’s most notable cardiologists, technologists, marketers, and designers. Ahmed was recently named to the 2021 Sports Business Journal 40 under 40 list as well as 2020 Fortune 40 Under 40 Healthcare list and previously named to Forbes 30 Under 30 and Boston Business Journal’s 40 Under 40. Ahmed founded WHOOP as a student at Harvard, where he captained the Men’s Varsity Squash Team and graduated with an A.B. in government.