I was sent this article concerning the latest suicide by a top-level chef by a reader/Facebook friend and asked for my opinion. As I started to respond I realized that I had enough to fill a quick blog post, so here goes. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/02/world/europe/benoit-violier-chef-dies.html?_r=0
Also read: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/03/dining/mental-health-chefs.html?_r=0
At my level, the culinary level here in Upstate New York, the pressure to perform is present, but not so intensely that it’s life threatening. We need to put into perspective what we do. We feed hungry people, and we (some of us) provide a nice culinary experience, and occasionally go beyond to the sublime. I think any pressure comes mostly from the time deadlines we have to hit on a daily basis, and for many of us, the financial constraints we deal with. It’s not that I don’t feel the need or have the ability to achieve greater things, but there’s a limit to how far culinary success can go in our area based on several factors. See: https://chefsday.wordpress.com/2014/11/14/twinkle-twinkle-little-star/ In the Capital District, the expectations and standards are lower, despite what some people might think. I certainly don’t believe we don’t have a few great chefs, but I do believe we are held back by what the market can sustain. The good news is that I do see an upswing in culinary quality, a trend that I hope continues. Around here, we chefs likely drink more that many occupations do in order to cope with the issues of the job, and I’m sure we have a higher divorce/separation rate than many due to difficult schedules and off-beat lifestyle, but suicide is not the norm for us. In fact, the job is not even ranked in the top 20 for suicide rates among occupations.
At the Michelin star level, a drop in stars, or a less than stellar review can have devastating financial results and can be seen as personal failure. That level of dining depends on destination diners, a flawless reputation, high demand for your product, cutting-edge cuisine, and people seeking and expecting a world-class experience. This is where the pressure can be relentless and unforgiving. The work required to reach that level is a tremendous commitment, not just by the chef, but by the people in their lives. The work to maintain it is just as demanding. Is being a Michelin star chef the cause of suicide? No, I don’t think so. While the pressure is high, I think most chefs at that level are intelligent enough to know that, what all chefs do, is simply cook dinner, and the bottom line is that it’s not that important of a job. Someone recently called the rash of suicides by top chefs an epidemic. I disagree. Coincidence perhaps, but not epidemic. Why someone chooses to take their own life is far beyond my pay-grade, but I am sure that almost 100% of the time more factors are involved in the decision than being a chef.
And now some snippets and tidbits
If you buy a gift certificate at any other than a well-established and long-running restaurant you run the risk of that place going out of business before it can be used. With the high failure rate you have no cause to complain about being out $100 you spent on a gift certificate for a new restaurant.
I made pasta today. Of course, I generally make pasta on Wednesday.
Today I went back to the surgeon that did my hernia repair in October because I’ve started feeling the same pain I did last May. While I put my well-being on the back burner in the interest of business last time, I’m not going to do it this time. I’m getting a CT scan next week to see exactly what has happened and how it can be fixed.
I’ve written two Valentine’s Day menus. One for The Inn at Erlowest which I’ll never see executed, and the other one for Ten Broeck Mansion’s annual Valentine’s Day dinner (on Saturday the 13th). That’s the one that I will see executed along with Jennifer.
It is my understanding that there was chowder served at this past weekend’s booze-fest.
A lot of folks also like to report on what happened that closed any business. Of course, they typically have little knowledge of the situation.