Culinary superstar Antonio Park riffs on celebrity status — and being 'freaking lonely'

Antonio Park may have successful restaurants and Hollywood admirers, however, as he recounts in CBC's new podcast Montreapolis, the life of a celebrity chef is a lonely one.

Owner of Park, Lavanderia tells Montreapolis he lives life in hyper-drive but has only 1 true friend

Despite his incredible success, celebrity chef Antonio Park said he's 'freaking lonely.' (Carrie Haber/CBC)
This is the first in CBC's new podcast series, Montreapolis. You can hear a full feature interview with Antonio Park on the podcast, which brings you conversations with people who make up modern Montreal. Click here to subscribe.

By any measure, Montreal chef Antonio Park is a tremendous success. 

He owns several restaurants in the city, including the flagship one that bears his name. He's planning to expand his empire with new restaurants in Toronto, Mexico City, Miami and Bogotá.

He's a judge on the hit television cooking show, Chopped Canada.

Hollywood celebrities, including Katy Perry, Tom Cruise and Jennifer Lopez, love his food.

Even a fire last November that forced him to temporarily shut down a couple of his restaurants didn't slow Park down. Lavanderia and Park both reopened within weeks.

Park loves his work, but he told CBC's new podcast Montreapolis it comes with a terrible price: overwhelming solitude.

Price of devotion to food

"I chose to do that. But there's no life. There's no friendship. There's no friends,"  Park said, in a wide-ranging interview.

"In today's world, without cooking, I'm freaking lonely," he continued.

Park is 41 and divorced with two children.  

He said his rigid devotion to cooking and the restaurant business wasn't compatible with a happy marriage.

"I'm no longer married," said Park. "I can't be married. I can't. If I get married to a woman right now, it's selfish because I know I'm not going to be able to take care of [her]."

Park said running his culinary empire leaves almost no time for friendships. (Radio-Canada)

He spends every Sunday and Monday with his children.  The rest of the week involves long days supervising his culinary empire.  

Asked if he hopes his children will follow in his footsteps, he's unequivocal: "Never, never, never, never, never."

He worries they'd be unhappy.

Park also travels often, partying with and, occasionally, cooking for Hollywood celebrities.

But he said that jetset lifestyle is no substitute for real friendship.

"You start hanging around with celebrities, they have their own world, their own way of living their life which is totally different from normal life," Park said.

"Once you taste that, you start to believe that you're part of that. That's so wrong.  Because we're all equal, we're all the same."

Best friends: Park and P.K. 

Park said he's found one true friend in the world, someone who understands the demands and the pressures of success at an early age: former Montreal Canadien P.K. Subban.

"We say everything to each other. There's nobody that I can tell something that I tell him — nobody. Except my mom or my sister," Park said.

The two met when Habs players started coming to a restaurant where Park used to work.  Park and Subban bonded over food, and when Park opened his first restaurant not far from where Subban was living, that was it.

"He came to eat here for three years in a row, lunch and dinner every day," Park said.

The friendship evolved beyond food: the two successful men found they had loneliness in common. 

"He has a very hard time trusting people, so he doesn't have a lot of close friends while he's a celebrity," Park said.

Now that Subban's been traded to Nashville, Park travels there often.  

He spent the All-Star weekend in Los Angeles visiting Subban, and Park's eponymous restaurant in Montreal hosted a private party for Subban and his Predators teammates when they were in town to face the Habs on March 2.

Park said the fire last November has helped him keep things in perspective and realize what's important: his history, his family, his food.

But he said he won't slow down despite the loneliness.  The love of his life, it seems, is cooking.

"I'll die doing this. Even if it kills me, it's a part of me," he said.

More from Montreapolis:

You can hear a full feature interview with Antonio Park on CBC's new podcast series, Montreapoliswhich brings you conversations with people who make up modern Montreal. Subscribe here.


Steve Rukavina is a journalist with CBC Montreal.