The restaurant industry has long had a reputation for being a challenging work environment—and for a long time, surviving the gruelling hours, high-pressure kitchens, and hard-partying colleagues was a badge of courage. (See: Kitchen Confidential, Restaurant Man, literally any book by a celeb chef.) But there are—surprise—some far-reaching consequences of this intense lifestyle.
Substance abuse, depression, harassment have become part of the hospitality work experience for many, but as general attitudes about mental health and wellness improve, things are starting to shift in the industry, too. It’s why Shoel Davidson launched Mind the Bar, a support hub offering resources including an employee assistance program (EAP) initiative providing 24/7 access to free short-term in-person or text-based clinical counselling for members.
Tacofino’s team helped introduce the EAP to the Mind the Bar program, after bringing the resource to its own team. “Our industry isn’t a nine-to-five kind of job: it’s shift work, you don’t have to show up in the morning, you’re surrounded by communities that participate in substance abuse and use. Alcohol and drugs ingrained in industry, and it’s a community that’s come to accept it,” says Gino Di Domenico, managing partner of Tacofino. “People are self-medicating, or coming into industry and finding out that it’s easy to self-medicate and be in a community that understands it.”
The not-for-profit also aims to put on regular industry events, like last month’s Shift Change (“We saw conversations happening, we saw an opportunity to pull the community together and open up dialogue to change ideas,” says Tacofino's manager of people and engagement, Taylor Chobotiuk) to bring together the hospitality community over snacks and cocktails—including zero-proof options—to share ideas about common challenges and reduce the stigma around mental health and substance abuse.
Healthy, happy, supportive work environments for everyone might not make for the juiciest chef memoirs, but we'll just have to live with that.