How many people that you know in this industry are addicts? Mentally unstable? Both?
This was the whole purpose for this blog, is to understand why this industry finds the people that are “one step above carnival folk” are talented or worth while or robots or anti-social or addicts or crazy.. the list is full of extremes. WHY?
Are we a product of the environment or are we drawn to this because we were wired to be this way before we could count?
I can tell you many stories of addicts, crazy folks in the industry for days..
One person that I knew that podiumed on a famous television show cooking competition used to stash pre-made cocktails all over the restaurant so that they were never without an adult beverage.
Another would regularly raid the pastry station of “whip-its” and get so stoned that they were basically brain dead for service.
I would get phone calls from a chef’s girlfriend asking why I let him drink so much that she was concerned he wouldn’t wake up. (It was my fault?)
I walked in on someone in the wine-room doing a whole mess of cocaine (maybe?) off an actual bottle of wine.
There have articles and biographies written, about these “wonderkinds”.
These are the “brilliant ones”. The people that had this natural skill needed to succeed in the restaurant industry.
I start to attribute this to stress. But that can’t just be it. I imagine an ER doctor is swimming in more stress than a chef could ever take on.
What about the creative nature of the job? Some of the most successful people in the industry, are likely sober. Look at the Pellegrino list.. But are they the ones putting ants on ice cream? Probably. So, what the hell?
So, the next most likely thought is that we only know about people in this industry having a higher incidence of addiction/mental illness is that society puts them under a spotlight. Your favorite celebrity-accountant doesn’t share the same stage as your favorite celebrity actor.
Why the hell is Chef X important for serving ants?
Q: Who the hell wants to eat ants? A: Lots of people. And this didn’t come into vogue because my sober mother (who only eats well done steaks) thought it would be tasty or that there is nutritional value in it. It came up because, like Radiohead, Van Gogh, or Elon Musk… someone saw things in a little bit different light. That person had the canvas to express themselves.
Society cringed at first, then we had an “ah-ha” moment.. but I guarantee that it took someone either in a dire situation or someone just said “lets see how far we can go”.
Back to chefs, artists, musicians, etc.. My dilemma with them is that they had sobriety and education to create something that makes sense. Where did that train derail from something that is classically accepted?
You look at Alinea or El Bulli.. What I think becomes interesting is that someone had a new idea, and they had the wherewithal to keep that in the confines of a system. El Bulli is famous for taking a concept and documenting it’s values to death. So, creativity meets systems..
Addicts need systems to survive in society. Thats it. I need to know where the day is going to go. If not, I use alcohol to flip the light switch to await a new day.
What is the next fad? I’d place my bet that its from the chef that has a bit of a storied past. But it won’t be successful without a support system and sobriety.