Category Archives: Mental Health

Chef Benoît Violier dead at 44

“The French-Swiss chef Benoît Violier, who scaled the heights of gastronomy to preside over a small Swiss restaurant that was named the best in the world in December, has died in what appears to have been a suicide, according to the police. He was 44.”—the New York Times

The food community woke up today to the news that their ranks were again diminished. And, yet again, it was by a chef’s own hand. This has to stop, and it’s not going to until we have a frank, public discussion about mental health and destigmatize the issues that are harming and killing us so that people can go and get the help they need.

I’ll be talking about this more in the coming week, but in the meantime, here are some resources for people in crisis—some specifically for people in the hospitality industry.

Please be kind to the person next to you. They may be walking toward the edge. You can help pull them back.

Mother of an issue

Eater’s Amanda Kludt published a painfully necessary investigation into the role maternity leave—and the frequent lack thereof—plays in keeping women from joining or staying in the restaurant business.

The article is definitely worth your time: Escaping the Restaurant Industry’s Motherhood Trap

While many of the subjects’ accounts are maddening to read, they’re not much of a shock to me after reading some of the responses to my mental health survey earlier this month.

Postpartum issues compounded the already overwhelming tasks of one new business owner, and put her health at risk:

“I had an incredibly hard time after my second child was born. My business was still relatively new, I had been working 60+ hour weeks up to my due date, and I was really naive how difficult it would be to care for an infant and another young child, and maintain a small business. Postpartum hit me like a truck and my staff was not as prepared as I had hoped to deal with me absent, so I had to go back to work two weeks after my son was born. That meant no sleep, which made my body shut down and not be able to breastfeed.

I developed a tic and a drinking habit that only perpetuated my inability to get any rest. I couldn’t share any of this with my staff who were all in their early twenties and not able to understand my situation. It was a very dark and stressful time that took a year to recover from.”

Continue reading Mother of an issue

From chef to chaos

Perhaps I’m dating myself, but some of you recall a network tagline from some years back before: “If you haven’t seen it, it’s new to you.” They were trying to further the freshness date on sitcoms rerun during the summer months, but I’ve since found it relevant in plenty of other applications.

For instance: this stunning, gut-wrenching story by Allecia Vermillion from March of last year. It lays bare the final years of Cody Spafford, a deeply talented sous chef at the Walrus and the Carpenter, who lost his life to a SWAT team, dispatched after he held up a Wells Fargo bank.

“[Renee Erickson] had just inklings of her young employee’s past: A few months into his job Cody got busted with some marijuana in Oregon. His criminal history meant he had to spend a few nights in jail. Once he returned, Cody told his bosses he wanted—needed—to be more responsible. How could you not root for an ambitious, hardworking kid eager to vanquish his demons and succeed?”

Continue reading From chef to chaos

Health? Yeah.

Hi all. I’ve been traveling like mad this past week and haven’t had much downtime or internet access, but I’m plowing through the well over 600 survey responses and countless emails I’ve received and will be back in regular publishing action shortly.

Meanwhile, this week I spoke with chefs Seamus Mullen, George Mendes, Marco Canora and Jon Bonnell about the physical toll that chef life can take, the effect it has on their psyche and how they took control of their wellbeing. From my interviews:


“There’s this strange deal in this industry where unhealthy habits are celebrated. Chefs are supposed to be fat and drink and smoke, maybe do some drugs and die in their 50s.”

Continue reading Health? Yeah.