CulEpi has tackled the topic of mental health in the industry in a number of articles on different subjects that share this common thread. IACP Award-winning pastry chef and co-author of Modernist Bread Francisco Migoya passionately addresses it in his article My Personal Tribute to Anthony Bourdain, our Editor-in-Chief Regina Varolli spoke intimately of these struggles In Honor of Anthony Bourdain, Katie Bone, Founder of PX+ Hospitality Festival emphasizes the issue in her story The Rational Behind PX+ Festival: Celebrate, Collaborate, Change, and chef Michael Gulotta of Maypop and MoPho writes about it in his call Why I Joined the #FairKitchens Movement.
It has become alarmingly more commonplace to see passionate cooks and service industry professionals leaving the industry due to stress from loss of work/life balance, substance abuse, hostile working conditions, or any mix of the above. ~ Michael David Gulotta
Today, finally, FOH and kitchen staff are bravely and openly talking about mental health issues, a once taboo topic in an industry that always seems to value machismo and bravado over vulnerability and sensitivity. A fact that has cost us a lot as human beings with real issues, as an industry with pervasive problems. As Katie Bone of the ground-breakng PX+ Hospitality Festival put it, “A chance to talk honestly about how hospitable the hospitality business really is, is long overdue.”
We’re getting a hell of a lot of bad press – long working hours, abuse in restaurants, unhealthy lifestyles, and substance and alcohol dependency all regularly feature in news reports. Clearly we are in the middle of a rocky time. ~ Katie Bone
The Wall Street Journal video Under Pressure: Chefs and restaurateurs come forward to talk about suicide and mental illness in their industry, opens with a close-up of Iron Chef Cat Cora, staring expressionless into the camera, boldly declaring: “We are dealing with an epidemic of mental illness in our industry.” The video by Natalia V. Osipova features a collage of chefs and restaurateurs who begin by grappling with how they felt when Anthony Bourdain took his own life, a monumental tragedy that made many in the industry say “Enough.”
In his Personal Tribute to Anthony Bourdain, Francisco Migoya started by questioning why so many people had read Bourdain’s best-selling book Kitchen Confidential and felt the desire to run out and work in a kitchen.
Substance abuse, long hours, complicated personalities (verging on sadistic and sociopathic behavior often coming from the chef or sous chef above you), and poverty line wages are a few unappealing selling points. To say you want that or feel at home with it speaks to problematic areas in a person’s life that need to be looked at carefully. ~ Francisco Migoya
Migoya finished his intimate ode to Bourdain with the kinds of rhetorical questions we all asked ourselves when we learned of Bourdain’s suicide. “Could I even imagine what sort of demons finally won over Bourdain’s will to live, even for his daughter plus everything else he had to live for?” Reflected Migoya. “To say goodnight to Eric Ripert in that hotel in Strasbourg, acting normal, but maybe thinking while he opens his hotel door, This is it, I can’t take it anymore, this is happening tonight. I am ending this tonight. I will take my own life and then this will all be over.…”
Against a black backdrop, Under Pressure puts the spotlight on individuals from the industry whose words of wisdom take center stage. In addition to Cat Cora, Under Pressure features Chris Cosentino of Top Chef Masters and co-owner of Delicious MFG & CO, Angela Garbacz of Goldenrod Pastries, Brother Luck of Four by Brother Luck, Jessica Largey of Simone, Charles Ford of S.K.Y., Jacob Funk of The Vig Chicago, Nirva Israel of Wholesum Meals, Greg Baker of The Refinery, and Patrick Mulvaney of Mulvaney’s B&L, each of whom shares a story you need to hear, their stories of anxiety, depression, or thoughts of (or attempts at) suicide.
We applaud each of these industry professionals for joining this conversation, for their bravery, honesty, and willingness to speak up about their deeply personal struggles, and we applaud the Wall Street Journal for creating Under Pressure – a compelling and thought-provoking piece. We hope everyone in our industry will take ten minutes to watch it, to really listen, and to talk about it over family meals – both at work and at home.