The Real Mind of a Chef: Mental Health in the Restaurant Industry

Published by Dave Lu on

This summer we lost one of the world’s greatest ambassadors, a man who bridged cultures through food: Anthony Bourdain. He brought viewers with him around the world with his open mind and open heart. His suicide was a reminder that it doesn’t matter if everyone thinks you have it all when you suffer from depression and mental illness. The stigma of mental illness needs to be eradicated in order for people to feel comfortable acknowledging that they need to seek professional and medical help.

People working in the restaurant industry are highly susceptible to mental illness given the physically demanding work and the challenging environment. The hours are long and the wages are low. Physical, verbal and sexual abuse lead to anxiety, addiction and depression. Sadly, it is not acceptable in kitchen culture to show weakness or vulnerability. This only leads to further isolation with no outlets and even thoughts of suicide as an escape from the hopelessness and despair. Just yesterday, the Wall Street Journal posted this important video about mental health in the restaurant industry:

We polled our Pros and received 231 responses. 40% of respondents have worked in the industry for over 10 years and 66% for over six years. 52% said that they have felt stuck in a toxic work environment. 46% said they have been mistreated or harassed at their workplace. More than half said that they have witnessed or experienced discrimination at their job. And yet despite all of these disturbing statistics, 46% of respondents said they would never leave the industry and 29% only considered it once in a while. Sadly, 3 out of 4 surveyed said they have never seen a therapist.

“Pared made living a normal life possible. It’s a 100% understatement to say that Pared has saved me from a very dark place I was stuck in for the past 10 years.”

Glen, Pared Pro

Our mission at Pared is to make restaurant life easier. That means making life better for those who work in the industry by offering flexibility and the opportunity to make higher wages. That also means bringing attention to critical issues and challenges that impact a majority of people in the industry. May is Mental Health Awareness month, but people are affected by mental illness all year-round. We’ve heard from many Pros that they feel powerless because they have no control of their schedule or what they’re working on. We are trying to give some of the power back to them.

Winter is the busiest time of the year in hospitality. The holidays are a difficult time for many who are forced to work and often end up being alone and away from their families. As a commitment to our mission, we are donating a portion of our revenues from this week in November to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). NAMI offers a HelpLine that provides information about mental health conditions, treatment options and recovery strategies by calling 800-950-NAMI to speak to trained staff and volunteers.

Categories: Industry

Dave Lu

Dave Lu is the co-founder and President of Pared. He started Pared with Will Pacio to solve the number one problem facing the restaurant industry: staffing. Prior to Pared, Dave was the VP of Marketing at Luxe and the co-founder and CEO of Fanpop. He also worked at eBay, Yahoo!, Sony and Apple in various product and marketing roles.

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