Cooks, Are You doing OK?

Call it what you will, Corona Virus, Covid19, The Pandemic……Just don’t call it the China Virus like a certain idiot in the White House.

This is without a doubt a difficult time for anyone in the restaurant industry.  With restaurants are either shut down or relegated to take-out and/or delivery only.  This scenario has put hundreds of thousands of hospitality workers out of work and onto unemployment for a fraction of their pay and will put many in a position of not keeping up with their bills while the j-offs who run the Federal Government bicker over how best to help the Americans who find themselves in peril.  It has also taken many of us out of the kitchen where we’re comfortable and safe with our peers.  Many of us are now put in a position that will increase issues with our already fragile mental health.

Lexapro is a great drug.  The pharmaceutical company that produces it charges too much, but it works well. What it does is makes depression due to chemical imbalance manageable.  What it does not do is eliminate depression.  While therapy helps manage it, depression is a long-term mental health issue and it takes years to conquer.

I’m trying my best to stay positive, and to keep depressed feelings pushed back.  One day last week was especially tough, I felt a bit overwhelmed, and found myself shutting down. Shutting down generally means becoming unable to do anything but lay on the couch and do not much of anything.  The world can continue around me, but I just don’t care.  These episodes are far more rare then they used to be when my depression was at its peak a few years ago.  Anxiety is also a big problem, and current events are bringing that to the forefront.  A couple days ago I came as close to an anxiety attack as I ever have.  I’m not sure how close I was because I’ve never had one, but I was to a point where I had to go upstairs alone for a bit.

One glaring problem is that a lot of people who work in the kitchen either do not recognize their feelings as depression or could not afford to do much about it if they did.   Seen as depression or not, a large number of cooks find  “therapy” sessions available to them in a bar after dinner service with their fellow hash-slingers. I will interject here, off topic, but worth mentioning that the money spent on booze and drugs would be better used on professional help.  I’ll tackle that issue at another time.

Now bars are closed, and the all-important healing sessions are on hold.  Cooks are mostly stuck at home and there’s little outlet for the type of energy that only a busy kitchen can burn up. Often, the people restaurant folks live with do not fully comprehend the life in the back of the house, the comradery, and the need to be at work where you have value as an individual and life has meaning.

So, while I’m worried about all my brothers and sisters in the industry on so many levels, I am increasingly becoming worried about mental health as my own issues become magnified by the current circumstances. I know if my depression and anxiety are increasing, then it’s only logical that there a are too many collogues finding themselves with increasing trouble keeping their minds in good shape.

I’m not a mental health professional by any means, but I have explored the subject in great detail.  My advice is not a substitute for professional counseling, but if I can help a few people struggling with and problems they might be facing then I’d love to hear from them.

The best I can tell you is that seeking a therapist that can do some work over the phone right now is the best thing you can do.  I know that’s not a viable option for everyone, so I’m willing to help.  I want to hear from you if you need to sort through some thoughts, vent, or ask for direction.  I’ve been through the toughest part of depression and am dealing with some pretty difficult bouts of anxiety.  There’s no reason to go through it alone.

A few of the things I’m doing is combing through my favorite cookbooks for fresh ideas, reshaping the Amuse menu in anticipation of reopening, planning some great meals at home, and reading any material I can on restaurant life.

I also think its important to get up in the morning, take a shower, get dressed and have a plan for the day.  I’ve had a horrible cold the last few days which hasn’t helped me stick to that routine but feel much better tonight and plan on forging ahead and being productive around the house.  Write a prep/to do list as if you were at work, do some kitchen maintenance, sharpen your knives, go through recipes and organize them in a recipe app.  I use Pepperplate and have been adding to it and getting rid of all the bits of paper and index cards.

The bottom line is, don’t just lay around (I know it’s impossible sometimes) and do nothing, force yourself to get up and do things to have you ready to go back to work better than ever.  Use this time to recharge your batteries and go into the kitchen once again with a new appreciation for your craft.  Most of all, don’t hesitate to get help in any form you can

Talk to a loved one, a friend, a professional if you can, or just reach out to me.  I’ve been there, I ‘m still there, and I’m sure I’ll be there in the future.  My email is  Hit me up and I’d love to help. Peace, and head up. You’re not alone.

3 thoughts on “Cooks, Are You doing OK?

  1. Chef, our political views are slightly different but not always that far apart…but really who cares. I’ve never commented before, but I feel the need to do it now. I’ve been reading your snippets from the beginning and I have found them both entertaining and inspiring. This post especially resonates with me today, thanks for the inspiration. Stay well.


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