Chefs Talk About Staying Sober in the Restaurant Business
As the saying goes, addiction does not discriminate, and it can hit people in every, and any, industry. Wherever there’s high pressure, there’s the temptation to use drugs to release the pressure, and in the restaurant industry, there’s often incredible pressure.
Now Men’s Health is looking at how chiefs who have been through rehabilitation and recovery are staying sober in one of the toughest businesses around.
A “Dirty Little Secret”
Gordon Ramsay spoke out about addiction in the restaurant industry last year, and he has been making an effort to try and make the industry drug free. He told the Independent that cocaine is the “hospitality industry’s dirty little secret,” and he lost a close friend, David Dempsey, his head chef, in 2003 from cocaine abuse. (Addiction also runs in Ramsay’s family, and he has a brother who has been struggling with heroin addiction for years.)
Ramsay tested the toilets in his restaurant, and they tested positive for cocaine. He told the staff, “We don’t want any more casualties. What do we need to put in place to stop anyone else’s life being taken?”
When Ramsay’s close friend died, he told Hello he was “an amazing young man. We had dinner the night before. I wish I’d seen signs earlier.”
Maintaining Wellness and Sobriety in the Hospitality Industry
As Men’s Health explains, the restaurant business is rough because there’s “low margins, high turnover, and increasing real estate and labor costs.” Chefs may now be rock stars on television, but they can often be prone to rock star behavior as well.
As Andrew Zimmern, who hosts the show Bizarre Foods, explains, when you get sober “it’s about changing your life so that you have a sense of freedom and purpose.”
After going into treatment and following the 12-steps, Zimmern is still sober 27 years later. He still follows the program, and if he hadn’t gotten sober, “I’d definitely be dead.” Zimmern was an alcoholic and suffering from drug addiction. He was also homeless and squatting in an abandoned building before he finally got help.
Gabriel Rucker, who is a major chef and restaurateur in Oregon, applies the 12-Steps to his life as well. He also applies the steps when going through stressful situations because they can apply to many things in life.
Like many in recovery, Rucker says he doesn’t want to be a “poster boy,” yet at the same time, he knows that rather than being a bad example, or no example at all, “I figured I might as well be a good example.”
Getting sober taught another celebrity chef the importance of living one day at a time, and focusing on right now. “Each day is a clean slate,” he says. “It’s what’s happening right now and the fact that you have control over your happiness.”
To maintain their sobriety, many chefs, whether they’re superstars or regular guys working at your local restaurant, are using the principals of the 12-steps to stay clean, and maintain their mental health and wellness.
Fellow chefs are glad to learn that there are others they can meet in support groups, and help each other back to sanity. “There wasn’t a place to talk about this stuff before,” one chef says. “Now there is.”