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A Reckoning With the Dark Side of the Restaurant Industry -

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- We're 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. Under Pressure Chefs and restaurateurs come forward to talk about suicide and mental illness in their industry. - 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 are 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 stream of 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 it affects the people around you and they feed off your energy so... ... even when your life is in shambles, nobody can know that. - The only reason why people will listen to you, 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. - A couple of times that I've opened up to people that I thought who 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, "Well, 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. The Culture - 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 the environment of the restaurant lives in. - There's such a huge pressure to work and tell 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, better 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 and that would be eight in the morning until 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 have survived off of $10, $11 an hour working overtime, two jobs on top of having to pay back $65,000 worth of student loans. - I would work at a place where I was making $11.50 and half way 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, that 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 on 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 realize 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 and in the slowest time of year, we've 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% to 75%. That stress of... ... again, putting on the good face, being the leader with all the answers, just you know, 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... ... even then, I was trying to be the restaurant tough guy... ... like it's totally fine. You know, you don't go to a hospital and I go and work the next day in the middle of a hot summer, you know, in Chicago...p ... wearing long sleeves 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... ... I call it hope. The Change - I want to affect a social change, especially within the restaurant industry because it's the place I love to be. - We can 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, shorthand 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... ... it's accepting. - I'm really tired of watching people die too young. - The fear of losing the 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 when people have mental health issues during service. Instead of saying breakdowns, we're trying to actually spend a positive light on it, so we called 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 is 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 coworker who you know is having these issues. All of 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.

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Duration: 9 minutes and 18 seconds
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Language: English
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Posted by: spanishone on Dec 3, 2018

A Reckoning With the Dark Side of the Restaurant Industry -

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