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
Just a note: I haven’t been posting here as much because I’ve been hunkered down on edits for my book “Hi, Anxiety,” but in the past week I’ve had the privilege of getting to speak about the issues around mental health and the food industry at both the annual Cherry Bombe Jubilee and the Chefs Collaborative Summit in New York City.
I was able to speak for a little bit longer at the former, on the same topic but geared a little bit more toward women in the food world, and this is roughly what I said.
I’m so incredibly grateful to be here today with all of you.
Our friends and colleagues are in pain and they are dying. We have the power to make it stop.
That might sound a little dire, but consider the fact that in February, the shortest month of the year, three (3) different chef-owners took their own lives. And those are just the restaurant workers who made the news. Doesn’t include, say, a manager who overdosed. A commis who finally succumbed to liver failure. A prep cook who got in his very last bar fight.
Or maybe for some reason, three doesn’t seem like much to you. Stuff happens. It’s just part of the industry. OK—at that rate, we’d be up to 36 in a year. 360 industry leaders dead in a decade. Can the industry afford to weather this loss? Can we as human beings?
Continue reading We have the power to make it stop.
In October 2015, I had the opportunity to speak on a panel at the TerraVita Food & Drink Festival in Chapel Hill, NC. Each member of the panel was asked to talk for a few minutes on how they use their culinary capital to benefit their community. Here’s roughly what I had to say.
I am delighted and I am lucky to have a chance to speak with you today about two subjects that are increasingly intersecting in my work, namely:
1. My crazy intense love of food.
2. And, well, being crazy.
I’ve been a writer for the past big chunk of my life and mentally ill with depression, anxiety and a panic disorder for all of it — but it took getting a platform as a food journalist for people to listen to me.
At first, I was just caught up in the deliciousness of it all. The fabulousness and the sensual pleasures — Yay, bacon! Oooohhh…pimento cheese. Calloo callay for cake (and pie).
And what I found out pretty quickly was that if you can find this common ground of pleasure with people, you can also start to talk a little bit about the pain. Because we all use a certain amount of sugar to balance the sour . You have to to be able to get up and be a human being in the world on any given day.
Continue reading Speaking Out