Category Archives: Essential Reading

NPR: Bartenders Are Aching for Wellness

“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

Upserve: From Crisis to Purpose

“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

NY Post: Bartenders go sober

“For those working behind the bar, alcoholism is an on-the-job hazard. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, they are 2.3 times likelier to die from alcoholism than the rest of the general population is. Many of New York City’s top bartenders have given up drinking the very libations they serve.”—Michael Kaplan

Read “Why the best bartenders don’t drink” at the New York Post

Atlanta Magazine: Atlanta restaurant workers battle substance abuse

“The Indigo Road Restaurant Group’s Steve Palmer, an Atlanta native, owns fifteen bars and restaurants in North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia—including Atlanta’s Oak Steakhouse, Colletta, and O-Ku. Palmer says his most important work, though, is for Ben’s Friends.

The 501(c)(3) is named for chef Ben Murray, Palmer’s friend and colleague who battled addiction and depression. Murray ultimately committed suicide last year, and Palmer founded Ben’s Friends soon after.

‘At its core, it’s a group of people who have a common goal of trying to stay sober,’ says Palmer, who has himself been in recovery for 15 years. The group meets every Sunday at an old cigar warehouse in Charleston. “It’s a safe space to talk.'”—Julia Bainbridge

Read “Indigo Road’s Steve Palmer wants to help Atlanta restaurant workers battle substance abuse” in Atlanta Magazine

A chef speaks: On suicide and the industry

Clark Barlowe is the executive chef-owner of Heirloom restaurant in Charlotte, North Carolina. He recently wrote a blog post called “Suicide in the Culinary Industry” and it’s worth your time. An excerpt:

“If you had asked me two years ago what my reaction would be to an iconic chef’s suicide, I honestly don’t know how I would have answered you. Most likely I would have read the articles, compartmentalized the issue and gone on with my day. I have learned that relationships make us who we are however, and my partner is a PhD student who researches mental health promotion and substance abuse prevention, as well as suicide prevention. For this reason, I had a different reaction while reading the news surrounding Chef Violier’s death. I grieved for the loss, but I also tried to understand the issue.

Suicide is complex; we should not try to fit it in to a neat box to make ourselves feel comfortable with the situation. We have to embrace the uncomfortable nature of the issue we are dealing with, as well as understand that this issue cannot be normalized to the point we feel we don’t need to discuss it. We should be comfortable with this embracement of the uncomfortable- we do this to ourselves daily: staff, product, customers, all of these variables have the opportunity to make us uncomfortable on any given day, yet we are equipped to deal with them. Let’s use this situation as an opportunity to equip ourselves with a new set of skills that include open communication and understanding of our peers and then use that to affect broader societal change.

Chefs have become known as activists in the world wide community, but we have forgotten to nurture our own. We are a culture that cares deeply about the projects and ideals we are passionate about, and are generous with our time and resources when it comes to supporting them. We work with non-profits on what seems to be a daily basis, we take up causes we believe strongly in, most of which expectedly revolve around food, even when it seems our time is limited at best. We are now confronted with an issue that transcends our industry and it falls to a culture such as ours to provide an example of how to grasp it.”

Read the rest on Heirloom’s website.