Jan Hendrick vd Westhuizen – A few months ago, on a weekday morning like any other, I opened the restaurant and noticed some flowers in front of a small, popular eatery two doors down from JAN. Within an hour, everyone on the small street of rue Lascaris knew that the owner/chef of the eatery had taken his own life. I was naturally shocked. Bitter even. Things were suddenly different. In this intimate interview, industry colleague Chef Liam Tomlin and I talk about something very few chefs ever talk about – or even acknowledge: the state of mental health in the restaurant industry.
On a more public scale, there was the suicide of Bernard Loiseau in 2003 when a newspaper reported that he might lose his 3-star status. In 2016, the famed Benoît Violier also took his life. And earlier this year, the death of Anthony Bourdain really shone a light on the state of mental wellness in the global food industry. After all, this was a chef that, on the surface at least, looked like he had it all together – the ultimate culinary cool dude. But when he took his own life, it made everyone sit up and notice. Shocking as it was, however, it was nothing new to his fellow gastronomes. In fact, we’re all deeply aware of the issues facing our industry. But mental wellness aside, the fact that we never talk about it is perhaps the biggest issue.
Q&A WITH JAN HENDRIK VAN DER WESTHUIZEN & LIAM TOMLIN
Why is mental health such a concern in the restaurant industry?