“At the supposed peak of my career, with a James Beard nomination and a string of other awards in hand, I broke. Except this time I couldn’t keep going. My restaurant was failing; in spite of the immense press we received, we remained mostly empty, often cooking for just a handful of people each night. I had been battling a lawsuit brought by a former customer, and I had eaten myself alive with self-doubt. I possessed no coping skills. I had abandoned my friends and family. I’d completely tuned out the advice of teachers and mentors. What played out over the next few months was a cliché: The restaurant closed, I filed for bankruptcy, and I took stock of my life and saw nothing.”—Ari Taymor
[Sean Brock] he has a new mission. Forget cooking shrimp and grits, he said, using a much stronger verb. “Anybody can do that,” he said. “I have this opportunity in front of me. If I can inspire people to take better care of themselves in this industry, that will be my greatest contribution.”
It’s not just about alcohol, he said. It’s about teaching people in the restaurant business how to ask for help.
“Suffering is suffering,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you are addicted to porn on the internet or you’re codependent or you’re addicted to gambling or if you’re addicted to ‘The Real Housewives of Atlanta.’ You’re suffering, and that’s what gets us into trouble.”—Kim Severson
“The average leisure and hospitality employee stays at one job for only 2.2 years. With hazardous working conditions and low rates of health benefits, high levels of attrition are hardly surprising. With a chef shortage, attrition is costly and retention is vital for the restaurant industry. Chefs may love cooking, servers may have a passion for hospitality, and bartenders may excel at making drinks, but a harsh working environment may knock some would-be long-termers out of the game early.”—Dakota Kim
Read “New Businesses Give Restaurant Workers The Tips They Ache For: Wellness” at NPR: The Salt
“In hindsight, the turning point in my career probably should have happened 25 years ago.
I was 17, a busser who could clear dishes and reset tables faster than anyone – when it was busy. Slow nights I slacked off. Then a manager I respected pulled me aside and said, ‘There’s no doubt about your ability, but you can’t only be good when we’re busy, you need to be good all the time.’
The conversation stuck with me, but I wish I could say the lesson stuck. The reality is my years in restaurants led to a cycle of alcohol and drug abuse. And now, sober and in a new stage of my career, the restaurant is where I’m looking for transformation.
Anyone who started out in the restaurant scene when I did – the early 90’s – knows how much it’s changed. Back then, being a part of a restaurant staff meant being part of the party—which really, never stopped.”—Ted Ripko
Read “The Restaurant Scene Fed My Addictions. Now It’s Giving Me Purpose.” at Upserve
Hi, good people. A lot of the Chefs With Issues work that I do isn’t super public. It’s one-on-one conversations with people who just want to talk about what they’re going through and hear that they’re not alone, get resources for loved ones, or who can offer me advice and insight about what’s needed.
Through the course of this, a few themes emerged, one of which is that food festivals can be incredibly difficult environments for people struggling with sobriety. Alcohol flows plentifully, parties abound, and it’s part of the culture. Front and back of house folks are away from their restaurants and it’s a chance to party with friends they don’t see very often—and pretty often, the drinks are sponsored, free, and inevitably boozy. Not only is it hard to find a non-alcoholic drink sometime—it’s hard to find a place where it’s not aggressively in your face.
So I’ve brought up the notion of sober or chill-out spaces, and relaxation workshops or group discussions with the organizers of a few festivals and I’m pleased to say they’re listening. I’ll share any details as things firm up, but what I’d really like is to hear from you.
What would be the right way to do this? What do you need? I’m getting more and more comfortable hosting group discussions about anxiety, depression, panic, etc., but I’m not a member of the sober community and I want to be very respectful of people’s needs and protocols, and ask for all the help I can to shape it.
My main questions:
What would this space look like to you?
What resources would you like in it? (Massages, privacy areas, counselor, non-alcohol beverages, etc.?)
Would an onsite AA/NA meeting be of use?
What would the vibe be? (Chill spa, quiet, upbeat, etc.?)
How should the word be spread and how private should its existence be? (Obviously no press allowed.)
Should there be any rules? (Like no photos, no tweeting, etc.?)
Anything else you would care to share, I am open and deeply grateful. Send me a note via the contact form, Twitter or Facebook DMs or kat at chefswithissues dot com, and I’ll apprise folks as this takes shape. Thank you.