“Suicide has been part of the food industry for a long time. In 1671, Francois Vatel, the maître d’hôtel for the Prince of Condé, was instructed to arrange a meal fit for the Sun King, Louis XIV. The dinner party was for 3,000 people and the prince’s relationship with the king rode on the outcome of the evening. After 12 sleepless days of preparation, Vatel was told that the fish he planned to prepare for the king had not arrived in time. He retreated to his quarters and stabbed himself to death. A few minutes later, the fish delivery arrived.”—Maham Javaid
Read “The restaurant business has a centuries-old suicide problem” on Timeline
“Mr. Violier’s death has underscored a growing concern among some in the restaurant industry that not enough is being done to address mental health issues exacerbated by the seemingly endless pressure to deliver perfection in a physically and creatively demanding profession dominated by lightning-fast criticism and often unrealistic expectations of success.”—Kim Severson
Read “The Death of a Star Swiss Chef Underscores the Profession’s Stress” in the New York Times.
“While the details surrounding Violier’s death have not been confirmed, the case once again brings to light a dark topic within the food community. The long hours and intense pressures of running a kitchen are often detrimental to mental health.”—Tim McKirdy
Read “We Need to Talk About Mental Health in the Kitchen” at Vice Munchies
“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.
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