Chefs Speak Out on Mental Health in the Restaurant Industry

Chefs Speak Out on Mental Health in the Restaurant Industry

We are dealing with an epidemic of mental illness in our industry. And it’s something that people
are afraid to talk about or confront or take care of themselves. A lot of people don’t
understand how to deal with people that have anxiety, depression because they don’t know what to say. It took a lot of prominent figures in the restaurant industry
and outside to help us figure out that it is
okay to talk about this. I was much more affected by Anthony Bourdain’s death
than I thought I would be. What was scariest about it was that I realized it could be me. After Anthony Bourdain
passed, sadly a couple of acquaintances and I’ve
heard of numerous people in the food and beverage
industry taking their lives. And he was this icon of positivity and living life to the fullest. He was the last person people
thought would commit suicide and he had extreme depression
that nobody knew about. If a chef like Anthony
Bourdain could kill himself then how a chef like myself
can deal with my mental issues and deal with all the stress
that comes with the industry. In the restaurant industry, there’s a big macho sort
of persona that whatever restaurant you’re working in
you have to adapt to that. Tough, nothing bothers me,
I’ve got the biggest ego. You have to look happy
because if you don’t, then that affects the people around you and they feed off your energy. So even when your life is in
shambles, nobody can know that. Only reason why people
listen to you and respect you for how much you can take under pressure. As a Black chef, a lot of times I have to be strong but not too strong. Like I can get angry, but not too angry. If I come off as too strong,
then I’m the angry Black woman. I think as a biracial
chef it’s always tough because your whole life you
feel like you don’t fit in. It makes you more isolated. So the challenge is, how
do you make that decision to break down those walls and open up? The couple of times
I’ve opened up to people that I thought would be supportive, you don’t need that,
you don’t need to be on the anti-depressants
right now, you’re fine. And runs anywhere from there to, wow I always thought you
were stronger than that. Being vulnerable should
be viewed as honest and honesty takes strength. I had to actually untrain
myself over the years to be who I authentically am. In the restaurant industry we’re kind of a giant band of misfit toys. And we wonder whether
it’s that we attract people who have issues that are going
on or we create the issues because of the environment
the restaurant lives in. There’s such a huge pressure to work until you basically fall apart. I have often felt guilty for not working 90-some hours a week. I have felt guilty if I
leave before we close. If you’re not at work, you better be in the
hospital, dead, or in jail. Because of the pressure
and the fear that I was going to lose my job,
I didn’t call in sick. And I spent two weeks in the hospital fighting for my life
with double pneumonia. Most of my career I
didn’t have any days off. I was the first person
to walk in the kitchen, the last person to leave. That would be eight in the
morning ’til one in the morning. For a lot of us when we go
home there’s nobody around. Up until recently my usual
way of coping with it was to just drink myself to a point where my brain would shut up. Most of us are working
off of passion over money. I’ve survived off of $10, $11 an hour, working overtime, two jobs, on top of having to pay back
$65,000 of student loans. I would work at a place
where I was making $11.50 and halfway through the work week I didn’t even have enough
money to catch the bus. When you work so hard and
you can’t even pay your bills, that really hits you hard. It makes you feel worthless. Every plate is a new curtain opening and you’re being judged. That creates a very stressful environment. You don’t get the opportunity to edit the work that you’ve done. You don’t really get a second chance. Some of the things that
have become normalized in the restaurant industry
that I really wish weren’t. The drug abuse, the alcoholism, the physical abuse, the sexual abuse. When I was a young cook,
I’ve had chefs spit in my face, I’ve had them screaming in
my face, cussing in my face. The chef would ask me into his office and close the door behind me. He would corner me and yell at me, he would throw utensils at me, and he also would ask me to
do things like lick his face. I had to leave the industry
after 14 years when I realized it was just too hard on me
physically and mentally. I’ve been a personal
chef for about a year now and the thought of going
back in the kitchen is scary. I have been reprimanded in an aggressive and belittling way to get
someone’s point across. I have also been that person, and I don’t ever want to
be that person anymore. This is my first time talking publicly about my struggles, being
such a young manager. It causes a lot of anxiety,
sometimes depression. As of now I’ve been able to
afford to go see a therapist. It was important for me
to speak up so that way maybe someone else who’s going through what I’m going through knows
that they’re not alone. I’m not broken because I have anxiety. I try not to feel any stigma about taking an anti-anxiety medication. I know that I have to take care of myself to be able to take care of other people. I’ve considered suicide a
couple of times in my life. Right about a year ago, Tampa
was about to get destroyed by a major hurricane, you
know, and the slowest time of year we just had our
business cut by about 75%. I mean maybe a month later
the news starts reporting about a serial killer in the neighborhood. Again, our business was down 50%, 75%. That stress of, again,
putting on the good face, being the leader with all the answers just took an amazing toll on me. I tried to kill myself
three times in about a year. I had something to drink on the side and I just took a razor
blade and started going. And my now ex-girlfriend, she
had walked through the door and um, even then I was trying to be the restaurant tough guy,
like it’s totally fine. And you don’t go to the hospital, and I go and work brunch
the next day in the middle of a hot summer in Chicago
wearing long sleeves. And all the time, aren’t you hot? People are asking, man, you must be a cold soul, I don’t get it. – I was adopted. I was abused, sexually abused. I was gay in Mississippi. At the time that I was suicidal,
I never talked about it. And I was very lucky that I had something inside me that, call it hope. – I want to affect a social
change, especially within the restaurant industry because
it’s the place I love to be. – We could start a
conversation that’s going to help millions of people
speak out to someone. Don’t keep it a secret because secrets breed pain and torture. – My team and I came together
and organized an event called Heard to bring
food and beverage people together to just show that
it’s okay to not be okay. – In Sacramento we’ve lost a
bunch of people over the last year to suicide and so we’ve
started to talk about it among ourselves and brought
15 restaurateurs together, we’re doing a series of
eight-hour trainings. Short hand would be like
CPR for mental health. It’s a challenge that has no victories. It’s a challenge that
will have fewer defeats. – We can create an
environment that is accepting. – Well I’m really tired of
watching people die too young. – The fear of losing a Michelin star, the fear of a business closing
and failing, the pressure of a bad review, these aren’t
reasons to take your life. I don’t want to be alone. I don’t want to strive to be great if there’s no one to share it with. – We’ve gotten to the point
now where when people have mental health issues during service, instead of saying breakdowns
we’re trying to actually spin a positive light on it, so
we call them breakthroughs. – Don’t downplay your story. Just because someone
else has a worse story, your story still matters. – You have to find that support system. And alcohol and drugs are not that. – We need to accept that
we have this problem before we can change it. – It’s not just in the food industry, it’s not just the people
that you would expect. – Sit down and look at
the employee or your co-worker who you know
is having these issues. All those red flags. The, I don’t know anymores. The, I don’t know if I can do it. Are you okay? Have you tried to kill yourself? It’s going to take an honest,
tough conversation. If you really want to change
how people look at this. (serene music)

37 thoughts on “Chefs Speak Out on Mental Health in the Restaurant Industry”

  1. 0:20: so its easy to write people off when you **don't know what to say! That shows that people that can do that do not care! Making things worse when they open their mouth to judge something they aren't going through.

  2. My friend Annie has just started on YouTube and she’s uploading the start of her mental heal series on her channel if anyone wants advice subscribe to @annieskg ❤️ please look after yourselves Annie can help x

  3. Finaly people are speaking loud about real problems which capitalism dont take into the account. Dont judge, applaud the people speaking loud about this and for example in #metoo and other movemevemts

  4. F&B is a tough business to work in . All these people are telling the truth. It seems that how much you work and how much you give and sacrifice its never enough.

  5. Thank you 🙏🏽 for sharing. I worked in the industry for ten years. Through college. Afterwards because I made more money bartending. This is definitely something that has needed to be addressed for twenty years if not more.

  6. Its probably….brain research. As usual….they brain research need to quit messing with human nature.. they are the cause of lots of stress test beams…and all their probings of different effects on human nature. People need to be natural…without these brain researchers..

  7. Kudos to them for sharing their stories! We need to see more bravery like this. Life is full of ups and downs – if we are honest we’ve all experienced the lows. It’s what we do with those lows that makes the difference. So proud of them for using their stories to inspire others. I also share some of my journeys on my channel. It’s not always easy – but definitely worth it!

  8. Long shifts, little benefits, stressful and dangerous work environment, tedious work, asshole customers who abuse FOH staff. Whod've thunk that there would be a mental health crisis in service?

  9. As a Psychologist in southern California, I encourage anyone who is interested in therapy to visit and search the therapist directory for a therapist that fits your needs. Thanks, Mina Guirguis, Psy.D.

  10. Woah…I've been in the industry for nearly 20 years now. I sincerely found this video from the search result "how to get out of the restaurant industry".This video just hit me like a ton of bricks, thank you for this.

  11. Some of the most insane people I have ever met are in this industry. The higher up you go, the more draconian it can be. There really isn't a better example, perhaps outside of foreign sweatshops of how low people will go for money.

    The LC

  12. Spent 40 plus years in industry…………you need to have a full [Physical] social life otherwise it will mess with you. Socialize with people that are not in the industry, that was my secret. Leave the job in the work place, do not take it home with you. Treat it as a great Hobby if not get out.

  13. I worked in a restaurant briefly, and because I had social anxiety, my coworkers harassed me and told me that I should commit suicide… I walked off the job, and never returned!

  14. food industry is highly competitive, tough job. It doesn't pay much as there isn't a lot of profit. So many things just eat the profits from rent to labor to credit card processing fee's ect. This is the life you chose, If you want a better life develop more in demand skills in a field not as saturated and competitive. Best of luck to you if you decide on this line of work!

  15. I’m a chef, I lost colleagues to suicide, have seen a mate trying 3 times. It is as real as it gets, here is my take on this topic:

  16. Doesn't surprise me. I work in the grocery business in Cincinnati and the pressures the supervisory staff go through does take a toll.

  17. Thank you chef for spking your mind out…
    It not a easy life and not easy to have a family coz of the hours you put there..
    Thank you .

  18. My advice is get out of the F&B, I just took a week off to get sober and mentally healthier again. I walked out of my last two dead end kitchen gigs because of stress, I started trade school 3 weeks ago because the thought of walking back into a kitchen is unfathiable. 15 years of working in a kitchen and i have nothing to show for. Come Monday i will be appyling at home depot for a part time job while attending school. Everyone has a breaking point in this industry, i was past that point for some time now , before i even reliased it.

  19. Hey I took abuse as a chef I was working 16 hours a day 6 days a week 7 when it was Christmas and New year I collapsed at work I gave up the industry 20 years on I'm still suffering mental health .

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