Leaving the Business: The Dark Side

By pete, Feb 25, 2015 | | |

  1. A few years ago, I wrote an article for this website entitled “  .”  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:


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  1. kaiquekuisine
    For those who havent seen me on cheftalk in the past year... Hi :D
  2. kaiquekuisine
    Oh this article just spoke to me. 
    After 2.5 years in the industry, and having to settle down and take it easy because of personal and family problems, i so miss working the 80 hour weeks, making 200 covers in a two man line and just leaving the kitchen with all that left over adrenaline. Now i work as an english teacher, and for me to stay sitting on a desk, teaching people things i didnt even like when i was a kid always made me questions why i didnt just stick to cooking. I guess it had more to do with the lack of sleep i got and lack of family moments, especially while my grandma (which is like my second mother) was battling lung cancer, but even after being a teacher i still didnt have much time to spend with the family. Now i lost my father and i realized life is too short to just stay unhappy and work a job wqhere you just cant see yourself working in for a long arse time. So i recently made the decision that in the beginning of the year i would start once again working as a cook, and that i was willing to even work my way up the ladder once again, just to feel the pleasure and the rush i loved to feel. Its been a year now that i have been away from cooking professionally but i just cant wait until 2016 to get my head back in the game and start working those long hours, and just feeling that rush and adrenaline, nothing could make me happier. 
    This article defintely spoke to me and im sure to various others who are getting back into cooking. I always believed that cooking was something int he blood. And since im young, healthy, and willing i might as well dive head first into the deep end of the culinary world and give it all i got once again for who knows how many years. Im so excited.... :D
  3. happyhound
    Ha! About time you showed up. What's this "rehab" you mention? Keep it away from me...
  4. photojonez
    I am the 54 year old man that "HappyHound" is talking about. I started work this morning at 7 am and got off work at 10:30 pm. we did two and a half turns in a 100 seat restaurant. I never question what I do for a living, but I have question myself about Who I have worked for in the past.  I have worked paycheck to paycheck most of my life, that part of this lifestyle is no fun. I have worked my ass off for many a moon to get where I am right now. Humility was not a word in my vocabulary as a young man, as a middle age man it is my mantra. Time to get 6 hours sleep, so I can wake up at 5:30 am and do it all over again. If you have a restaurant addiction, and you are not scratching that itch... all I can say is rehab is for quitters bitches LMFAO ZZZZZZzzzzzzzz snore.
  5. jim berman
    "this sordid industry. Addiction is funny thing. I do have a problem. No, I don't to be cured." What a great statement, @HappyHound!
  6. pete
    @HappyHound  Thanks for the comments.  I'm glad a strike a cord with all those ex chefs out there!
  7. happyhound
    I don't WANT to be cured...
  8. happyhound
    Hmmmm. been thinking about this topic for the last hour or so. I think I have a problem. To add to the post above, my beloved wife is also a 30 year veteran of the business. 48 yo who still does 50 hour weeks, prepares seated platings for 3-500 on a regular basis. Mean as hell and hilariously funny. Oh the stories... But more to the point, I guess I do surround my self with those still in, or veterans of, this sordid industry. Addiction is funny thing. I do have a problem. No, I don't to be cured.
  9. happyhound
    Oh Baby! The rush of 235 tops in 2.5 hours. 2 man line, the horrible waitress, the awesome one too, the hung-over dishwasher... I can soooo relate to this well written piece. My best bud is still in the game at 54 (I got out 15 or so years ago). 16 hour days 6-12 days a week (lol). Don't know how he does it. I get to feed my addiction vicariously through him though. 2 hours on the phone and I can smell the line, feel the heat, make fun of the dumb-ass co-workers, follow trends, develop menus, wax poetically about the times we did work together over the years, excitedly plan our next full beast break-down (I also offer small animal slaughtering on the side. Sheep & goat mainly. Keeping my hand in the game?), argue the virtues of single malt vs. single barrel... Addiction is a funny thing.
    Again, great piece. Thanks.
  10. pete
    @Jim Berman I've been looking for a gig like that but up in my neck of the woods those kinds of jobs are hard to come by.  I've also been looking for some potential partners to maybe do a place but haven't found the right people with the right money yet.