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.
It’s killing this profession that we all love. It’s killing PEOPLE.
And there will be no kitchen of tomorrow if there’s no one left.
Continue reading MAD Symposium: What’s killing the restaurant industry
I am so grateful to and impressed by my friend, chef Daniel Patterson, for writing this raw, honest, gorgeous essay about his struggles with depression and the crisis he sees in the industry he loves. Please share it with the people you know who need it.
“I mean, how many chefs you think are depressed, anyway? Like 95%?”
I was standing in a bar, talking with a chef friend. It was late. We were drinking. And talking about depression.
I’ve always had my ups and downs. Some days were harder than others. Some years were harder than others. I thought it was a more or less normal outgrowth of a flawed character, something I should accept, endure, survive. I never considered medication, though. I wasn’t one of those people.
Then something changed. Instead of bouncing back I fell lower and lower until I began to actually worry. It felt like the blood had been drained from my body and replaced with lead. I was barely functional, and even the simplest conversations required vast amounts of energy. Then one day I discovered that my creativity was dead, inaccessible to me, and that’s when I became scared enough to do something about it. I could live without many things but not that, so I called a doctor and made an appointment.”—Daniel Patterson
Read the rest of Speaking Out at MAD.
“My story is not unique in this business – if you get a good review, you go celebrate; with a bad review, you drown your sorrows. There are free drinks after work, then you all go out for late-night food and drinks, followed by an after party at someone’s house. ‘I’ll go out for just one,’ is a big joke in the industry because everyone knows you can’t have just one drink after work. So many people in the business overindulge regularly and it’s hard to get help – you’re scared of how it’s going to damage your reputation in the industry.”—Danny Mongeon
Read “Coming out of the darkness with chef Danny Mongeon” on Ottowa at Home
“The Scott Howell you don’t know almost died in 2014 after a 1,200-pound charcoal grill was dropped on him during its delivery. That Scott Howell spent the next four months taking doctor-prescribed pain killers, suffering from depression and ending up twice being checked into psychiatric hospitals.
‘I lost my way,’ Howell says. ‘I was a worn-out chef. I was a worn-out person.’
His recovery continues, but these past two years have changed the Scott Howell we thought we knew.”—Andrea Weigl
Read “The true story of a chef’s chef” in The News & Observer
We’re keeping it real this month on Prince Street with a show about anxiety. We understand—it’s summer, time for ice cream and the beach. But we also know that nerves are not seasonal, especially when it comes to… food. On this episode, Phil Rosenthal, creator of the hit sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond and host of the award-winning I’ll Have What Phil’s Having, reveals one of the secrets of his success, and why he thinks more people should be anxious. Find out why author and food editor Kat Kinsman might disagree, especially when it comes to the dangerous kind of anxiety that increasingly afflicts people in the restaurant industry. Chef Erik Ramirez teaches Eden Grinshpan how to make Peruvian ceviche while swapping tips on how to reduce anxiety. Sierra Tishgart steals a moment with chef Jessica Koslow of LA’s Sqirl, who is launching two new projects while publishing her first cookbook at the same time. And Jay McInerney reads from his twelfth book, out this month, his latest novel, Bright Precious Days.
Listen to Live from Prince Street Episode 5: Anxiety online or on iTunes