A few years ago, I wrote an article for this website entitled “Article: Confessions of a Sell Out Chef.” In the years between then and now and I've discovered another dark side to this industry that so many of us gravitate to. This job, this lifestyle, is an addiction. I’m not talking your garden variety, “Oh, I’m addicted to my morning coffee” kind of addiction. I’m talking the gut wrenching, hardcore withdrawal symptoms, battling the urge to sink back into oblivion every day for the rest of your life kind of addiction.
When I wrote that article, I was still in the halcyon days of the residual effects of this drug called the restaurant world. It wasn't long, though, before signs of withdrawal set in. I started writing a food blog to “give myself an outlet for my creativity.” I scoured the internet, reading about new restaurants and bars, greedily devouring their online menus as if by reading about these new places I could live vicariously through them. I followed up with old cooks that had worked for and been mentored by me, becoming both jealous of some of their successes and depressed that it was them still living the life that I miss so dearly.
Six years later, I still find myself doing these things, and more. I lie awake at nights coming up with new restaurant concepts that I’d like to open up, refining and re-visioning the spaces and menus, trying to figure out how to make these concepts fly in the heart of Wisconsin, the land of beer, brats, cheese, and brandy Old-Fashioneds.
Yet, the rational part of me knows what going back into that world means; long hours, nights and weekends, missing out on time spent with my daughter and wife, the stress and the unhealthy, but fun ways, chefs often cope with that stress. But that other voice whispers alluringly in my ear, “ Do it. Give in. You know you want to. It will be fun. It will be like the old, fun days. Remember the rush. Remember the camaraderie. Remember the fun we had.”
I hear all the time from people who are thinking about going into this business. While I calmly explain to them the pros and cons of this industry, and the fact that it’s not glamorous like it is on TV, a part of me wants to scream, “Run!! Don’t do it!! Don’t get a taste of the rush that this business can be, because once you do, once you’re hooked there is no going back. You will want to give your life and your passion over to this addiction and you’ll never be the same again.”
Like any serious addict, not a day goes by without my thinking about that which I am addicted to and like any addict I don’t consider myself cured of my addiction, but struggle with it every day, knowing that someday, sooner or later, I will most likely fall off the band wagon and I will find myself immersed in my addiction once again.
If you would like to read my earlier article on leaving the industry you can find the article here:
Article: Confessions of a Sell Out Chef