Category Archives: Kitchen Life

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

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

The Post and Courier: Charleston chefs band together to stay sober

“Mickey Bakst did just about everything during his working years that were swallowed up by addiction. He did alcohol. He did drugs. When he was trying to prove to himself that he wasn’t an alcoholic, he did three bottles of NyQuil a night.

The only thing that Bakst didn’t do was die. It’s a miracle the Charleston Grill general manager attributes to the conviction he developed, around the time he woke up in a straitjacket, “that if I were to drink or drug again, I would kill myself.”

Bakst has now been clean for 34 years. His friend Steve Palmer, managing partner of the Indigo Road Restaurant Group, this month is marking 15 years of sobriety.”—Hanna Raskin

Read “Locals lead fight against substance abuse and other life-threatening issues in F&B industry” at The Post and Courier

MAD Symposium: What’s Killing the Restaurant Industry

I remain utterly gobsmacked that chef Rene Redzepi and his team at Noma and MAD Symposium invited me onto their stage to speak about the mental health crisis in the restaurant industry. I am more grateful than I could possibly express to them and to another of my idols, chef Jessica Largey, for opening up her heart and soul to me and allowing me to share her story with the audience there.

This is approximately what I said, and on National Depression Screening Day, I wanted to let people in the food industry know that they’re not alone.

Hi there. I’m Kat. I’m mentally ill.

That’s not usually what I lead off with, but I’m not ashamed of it—it’s just part of who I am, and it doesn’t make me feel weak to let you know that.

I also want to tell you that I love you. God, I love chefs, and people who choose to make their living in food. You feed people and take care of them. It’s the thing that consumes you and the people you choose to surround yourselves with the vast majority of the time. You wake up thinking of the food you want to serve and how you can make it better—make it perfect. How you can make your guests even happier and feel even more taken care of.

But we’re not taking care of YOU.

YOU’RE not taking care of you.

And you’re not taking care of each other—and you’re too afraid to ask.

And it’s killing you.
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