Federal Tax ID 37-1921395
The journey from where I started to where I ended up was not easy. When I was a line cook the names of the legendary three-michelin starred chefs inspired me and pushed me to be better every day. Ripert, Vongerichten, Kunz, Keller, Robuchon, Adria, Trotter, and even Julia Child - to be one of the greats required a lot of hard work and dedication to the craft. Hours on your feet doing hours of repetition. Trial and error until you got it right. The benefit at the end was exquisite artistry, craftsmanship, sophistication, teamwork, camaraderie, and indulgence.
The same year I attended culinary school was the same year "Kitchen Confidential" was published. Anthony Bourdain was one of the first chefs to write and speak about the secrets and stories of the gang of macho misfits, drug abusers, and sexual offenders behind kitchen doors. Along with the success of Emeril Lagasse on The Food Network, chefs became rockstars overnight.
It wasn't the fame that attracted me to the hospitality industry. It was the dream of knowing I could nourish people. Knowing that there could be a dining room full of happy guests enjoying the fruits of my labor. Knowing that for a fraction of an instant, I could reach out and touch someone's soul. The major benefit was that I could do it without anyone ever seeing me.
Throughout my years in the industry I began to get into a cycle. I fell into "the dark side" of the hospitality industry and started to abuse alcohol.
The more experienced I became, the harder I pushed. The harder I pushed, the more I drank. The more I drank, the less I thought about how depressed I actually was. For years I abused alcohol and drugs to help me put a band-aid on the demons I was holding within myself.
For years I used this industry as a way to hide from the outside world. I never minded the long hours and broken relationships. I pushed myself forward to learn the craft and work alongside the best.
I struggled with my mental health for decades, until finally, I made the decision that it was time to work on myself. The catalyst was reaching burnout at the age of 36 and getting fired from a prominent chef position. I took 6 months off from the industry to begin to focus on my own well-being.
At this point in my life I had a lot of barriers to overcome. I had no job, no health insurance, and no place to start. Over the course of those six months I started researching about mental health. I started to pull every free resource I could find and compiled them in a list together. I found a way to start therapy, with the help of nonprofits providing counseling services here in Brooklyn. And I had my last drink of alcohol on Dec 3, 2018.
I made the decision to start Restaurant After Hours to help chefs and other industry professionals who face the same barriers I did. I struggle with depression and anxiety myself, and I understand the feelings, the actions, and the hopelessness. It is a very dark place to be in mentally.
I am one of the lucky ones to make it to 43 months sober (as of July 2022). However, I did not do it alone. I did it because I had the support of a community around me, and that's exactly why Restaurant After Hours exists.
Restaurant After Hours provides mental health support to the hospitality industry.
The team is extremely dedicated to providing free access to mental health resources, a virtual peer-to-peer support group program, mental health education, advocacy, and support.
We are a community of hospitality professionals helping hospitality professionals.
Restaurant After Hours is currently raising money to extend our virtual support group program with more counselors and more meetings. Please consider sending a $20.00 donation below. To donate another amount, please visit www.restaurantafterhours.org/donate
My story was highlighted in the Huffington Post! Thank you to Garin Pirnia for writing! Read about how I started cooking to founding Restaurant After Hours.