A few days have past since the news of Anthony Bourdain committing suicide in France. As I am not a supporter of suicide, I do acknowledge it is a disease and people do need to seek help when feeling they are heading down that path. I also acknowledge that the life in a kitchen is very difficult and many people struggle with drug use, alcohol abuse, pill popping and self inflicted pain to help them deal with their everyday lives. I was one of them. I drank a handle of whiskey or more everyday, on and off the job.
The atmosphere and daily life of the kitchen is very grueling. Long hours, high stress, anxiety and large work loads that seem endless. This leads one self to find an escape at the end of the day. An escape can be anything from reading a book to drinking a bottle of whiskey. There is many things that can help you cope with the life of a Chef, but checking your mind away from the kitchen is a very difficult task. I find myself always thinking of what is going on when I'm not there, what I could be cooking, what new dish can go on the menu, will it run smooth without my presence? The higher rank you get the more stress and work you have. Some people can't cope with that stress forever, or at least find peace of mind in the workplace.
I think it's very important to take your days off and step away from your job when you can. The work will always be there and there is always time to do it. But at the same time it's easier said then done. The average suicide rate has risen from 1999 - 2016. Nearly 45,000 people have committed suicide in 2016 according to the CDC. That is a very high number. Other studies show that a great majority of suicides have not shown any signs of mental health issues. But instead relationships, money and jobs are leading the cause. This can be very scary when you work in such a high standard and stress related field. The number one workplace leading in suicide is Medical Doctors according to Mental Health Daily. But the culinary field is on the rise and has made top 10 on some studies.
It needs to be known that the kitchen isn't glamorous. It's hard fucking work, mentally and physically. It takes sacrifice, emotion, time and lot's of devotion. Sometimes there seems like there is no light at the end of the tunnel, sometimes the rush won't end. This is the life day in and day out. But it's very rewarding when you reach the light at the end of the tunnel.
I read a paragraph by Anthony Bourdain recently that had line in there that went something like " you have be a little crazy to put yourself through the life in the kitchen." I completely agree. I think any person willing to put themselves through 12-14 hour days 5 to 6 days a week have to be a little nuts. I think I'm crazy at times constantly pondering on the culinary world I have so easily fell into. But at the end of the day I couldn't see it any other way. For some it probably doesn't feel that way. Trapped and constricted by a culinary python not knowing how to escape. Fighting to stay above water, and ultimately it becomes to much to keep up with and you say fuck it.
Like I said I don't agree with the decision, but is it complete bliss to control your fate? To control your way out and nothing to stop your exit. It may be just that, but I also believe It would be true bliss to overcome that exit and stand atop a battle not so easily won.
Mental illness and suicidal thoughts are not a joke, and they shouldn't be taken lightly. If you feel you have an issue you need to seek help and talk to people close to you. It can cause a lot of damage if you don't. You are stronger then you think and you should have a chance to prove that. If your a Chef, line cook or any other employee and the field seems to hard for you. Take a step back a let people know what your feeling. It's never too late, until it's too late.
- Cook in Peace Anthony Bourdain