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.
Continue reading MAD Symposium: What’s Killing the Restaurant Industry
“My story is not unique in this business – if you get a good review, you go celebrate; with a bad review, you drown your sorrows. There are free drinks after work, then you all go out for late-night food and drinks, followed by an after party at someone’s house. ‘I’ll go out for just one,’ is a big joke in the industry because everyone knows you can’t have just one drink after work. So many people in the business overindulge regularly and it’s hard to get help – you’re scared of how it’s going to damage your reputation in the industry.”—Danny Mongeon
Read “Coming out of the darkness with chef Danny Mongeon” on Ottowa at Home
“The Scott Howell you don’t know almost died in 2014 after a 1,200-pound charcoal grill was dropped on him during its delivery. That Scott Howell spent the next four months taking doctor-prescribed pain killers, suffering from depression and ending up twice being checked into psychiatric hospitals.
‘I lost my way,’ Howell says. ‘I was a worn-out chef. I was a worn-out person.’
His recovery continues, but these past two years have changed the Scott Howell we thought we knew.”—Andrea Weigl
Read “The true story of a chef’s chef” in The News & Observer
We’re keeping it real this month on Prince Street with a show about anxiety. We understand—it’s summer, time for ice cream and the beach. But we also know that nerves are not seasonal, especially when it comes to… food. On this episode, Phil Rosenthal, creator of the hit sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond and host of the award-winning I’ll Have What Phil’s Having, reveals one of the secrets of his success, and why he thinks more people should be anxious. Find out why author and food editor Kat Kinsman might disagree, especially when it comes to the dangerous kind of anxiety that increasingly afflicts people in the restaurant industry. Chef Erik Ramirez teaches Eden Grinshpan how to make Peruvian ceviche while swapping tips on how to reduce anxiety. Sierra Tishgart steals a moment with chef Jessica Koslow of LA’s Sqirl, who is launching two new projects while publishing her first cookbook at the same time. And Jay McInerney reads from his twelfth book, out this month, his latest novel, Bright Precious Days.
Listen to Live from Prince Street Episode 5: Anxiety online or on iTunes
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.