Grub Street: Meet the People Working to Improve the Lives of Restaurant Employees

“There are several well-established outlets for chefs and other restaurant workers who need to deal with the crushing stress and demanding hours of their jobs: Alcohol and illegal drugs are big. So are screaming fits, or simply walking off the job in the middle of service. Those are the clichés, anyway, and they aren’t exactly healthy or sustainable methods for coping. Now, though, a growing number of people working within the industry say it’s time to pay attention to this problem and give workers access to programs that actually promote mental and physical wellness.”—Keenan Steiner

Read “Meet the People Working to Improve the Lives of Restaurant Employees” at Grub Street

Married to it

Plenty of professions present a challenge to the work/life balance. But restaurant work, with its demanding hours and ready access to alcohol and drugs can present particular challenges. Some thoughts on the topic from people who answered the mental health survey:

“It destroyed my 17 year marriage after the arrival of our child. We are currently going through a divorce.”

“I was going through some tough relationship stuff and I told my boss about it, and I ended up not leaving my partner, making me feel embarrassed that I was such a mess at work. Now I don’t think they see me as professional as they did before which gives me anxiety.”

“Both my wife and I are chefs—being married to someone in the industry has helped what was mostly a problem with seasonal depression. However, I feel that we also enable each other in some of the less healthy aspects of dealing with stress. We haven’t had issues with drinking, but it increases during the most stressful times of the year.”

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“The worst part of the long weeks is the strain on my relationship, but I have to work.”

“Food and beverage is a pressure cooker. I am a wife, mother, and executive chef. At the end of the day, I constantly feel like I can’t do any of them right. I’m a perfectionist.

I always said I would have it all. Now I realize you can, just not all at once.

There is no balance. You have to hope your husband sticks around and supports you and that your kid knows you love her even though you aren’t home to tuck her in or send her off to school. It’s painful when you finally manage to get out of work early and you go to pick up your kid from school and the after-school teacher doesn’t know who you are. It’s like lemon juice in small cuts. While you’re busy working you get keenly aware of where you are lacking as a wife and mother. There have been three moments in 15 years of my career where I felt like I was on top of it. Not even three DAYS, just three moments.

Technically, I am very successful—but it sure as hell doesn’t feel that way.”

“The overall state of the restaurant industry is a disaster. Drugs and alcohol are encouraged. You are considered an outcast if you don’t engage in these things. Drugs and alcohol almost destroyed my life and almost ruined my relationship. And the restaurant industry hugely contributed to this. Servers would literally leave coke in the bathrooms at one of the restaurants I worked at. It’s just insane.”

Here’s some more reading on the matter.

Buzzfeed: A Top Chef’s Suicide Has Prompted A Rethink In Kitchen Culture

“Violier’s death has rattled the world of haute cuisine.

‘Without a doubt, one of the most gifted chefs of his generation left us yesterday,’ Gault & Millau said in a statement.

But the chef’s apparent suicide has also prompted discussion across the Atlantic about what the U.S. culinary industry is doing to assist those struggling with mental health.”—David Mack

Read “A Top Chef’s Suicide Has Prompted A Rethink In Kitchen Culture” on Buzzfeed.

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Timeline: The restaurant business has a centuries-old suicide problem

“Suicide has been part of the food industry for a long time. In 1671, Francois Vatel, the maître d’hôtel for the Prince of Condé, was instructed to arrange a meal fit for the Sun King, Louis XIV. The dinner party was for 3,000 people and the prince’s relationship with the king rode on the outcome of the evening. After 12 sleepless days of preparation, Vatel was told that the fish he planned to prepare for the king had not arrived in time. He retreated to his quarters and stabbed himself to death. A few minutes later, the fish delivery arrived.”—Maham Javaid

Read “The restaurant business has a centuries-old suicide problem” on Timeline

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