“There’s a Sisyphean nature to the work,” says Strack, who studied psychology before becoming a restaurateur. “It’s accepting and welcoming, but at the same time, there’s an unrelenting nature, which is going to find you out sooner or later. Restaurants are creative and artistic communities with a higher tolerance for eccentric behavior. People are drawn here because it’s an alternative lifestyle. It’s fundamentally different than a 9 to 5 job.”—Kara Baskin
Read “Why working in the restaurant industry can be hard on your mental health” in The Boston Globe.
So I’m still in the throes of a book deadline, but I do take time out (a.k.a. procrastinate) to read the survey results, emails and contact form submission forms that come in via this site. More that 1200 of them at this point, so I’m a little bit behind, but I did want to take a moment to respond to the single truly angry (and anonymous) communiqué that I’ve come across.
The person who wrote it (they signed it “a cook”) had some very strong feelings, so I’ve addressed each of them individually.
“Get the fuck out of the kitchen.”
I’m actually in my office. Better wifi in here.
“You think you’re doing something important? That you’re helping improve the would-be chefs/chefs?”
Well, I hope I am. And seeing as more than 1200 industry professionals have reached out to take part in the project, either by taking the survey, emailing or reaching out via the contact form like you did (though most of the latter chose to include their name, unlike you—but that’s fine) to ask how they can help, I’d say that’s pretty indicative of the fact that I’m not the only one who thinks there’s a crisis going on in the industry.
“You’re a fucking joke.”
Then it’s not a very funny one. If you sat down with me and spent just 15 minutes going through the notes I’ve gotten from people in the industry who have lost their loved ones to overdose and suicide, or chefs, servers and restaurateurs currently in the throes of despair, depression, anxiety and addiction, you might need a tissue, too.
Continue reading Infrequently Asked Questions
David Durnell of Atlanta’s Bocado and the forthcoming Amer recently died at the age of 28. His friends have established a YouCaring page in partnership with The Giving Kitchen.
“As many of you may already know, David Durnell recently passed away. As David’s close friends and family, the weight of this bears heavily on us all and as this news spreads, many of us are left hoping and wishing that there is something we can do. This has been a tragic and sudden loss for everyone. David was a brilliant individual – beloved by those fortunate enough to know him and a true son of the city of Atlanta. He was a legend of the service industry and the impact he has had on that culture in Atlanta specifically will live on for years to come.”
See how to help the Durnell family at YouCaring.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, here is a list of resources that may help.
I’m still in the throes of book edits, but I wanted to share a nice development. I’m working with The Heirloom Foundation to use the data collected from my mental health survey to create a document that we can publish and use as proof of the ongoing crisis in the food industry.
Since I didn’t get board clearance before posting the survey (honestly, I just wanted to see if people had some things they wanted to talk about), the results can’t technically be considered as “board approved.” BUT! The raw data has made it through an independent review board and can officially be analyzed by a psychologist for publication. Which is huge. Which will allow us to demonstrate the scope of the problem. Which will make a difference.
Meanwhile, I’m crawling back into my writing hole, and I leave you with this love letter to the service industry, written by one of the biggest-hearted humans I know, Carla Rzeszewski.
“And if this invisible communication of industry folk seems a bit romantic to you, allow me to illustrate a more hard-wired lesson learned while working the floor. One of the richest things you can learn is the ability to be ‘in the weeds’ and more importantly, to get yourself out. (Being in the weeds essentially means that you are in the shits in the middle of service; it can feel like the ship is sinking around you, and it’s somehow up to you to get everyone back to shore.) And while being in the weeds can potentially be a nightly occurrence if you’re working at a busy restaurant, it’s a great opportunity to learn how to multi-task, remaining buddha-calm while attempting to make your bartender, manager, tables and chef happy. It is a wonderfully sadistic form of mediation.”
Read the rest of “A Love Letter To The Industry” at Medium.
Hi, all! I wanted to pop my head in and note that I’m posting a little less right now because I’m on book deadline, but I’m still paying very close attention to the correspondence and survey responses coming in and I’ll be in touch after the end of February.
But speaking of the survey: Over 1000 chefs, managers, servers, bartenders and other people in food service have responded, and some pretty clear patterns have emerged. I’ve shared the results (fear not—with no identifying information) with the good people of The Heirloom Foundation, who are working with a psychologist to analyze the results so we’ll have clear, incontrovertible evidence of the struggles the industry faces, and where efforts should be focused.
I’m deeply grateful for everyone who has poured out their hearts. It will all add up to something.
In the meantime, message boards are live if you feel like venting to other people in the industry.