Edmonton

Chefs aim to fight depression, anxiety, substance abuse in restaurant industry

Three Edmonton chefs want to remove the stigma of addiction and mental health issues in the restaurant industry by creating a place for people to talk about them.

Food for Thoughts event aims to get restaurant professionals talking about the stresses they face

Dan Letourneau, an Edmonton chef, wants restaurant workers to start talking about the substance abuse and mental health issues faced by people in their industry. (Dan Letourneau )

Three Edmonton chefs want to remove the stigma of addiction and mental health issues in the restaurant industry by creating a place for people to talk about them.

Food for Thoughts was formed by Dan Letourneau, Cory Rakowski and Stuart White. Their first event takes place Nov. 22 at the Dogwood Cafe at the Victoria Golf Course.

Letourneau became inspired to help others after speaking to a friend about the many people they knew in the food services industry who struggled with depression, anxiety, eating disorders and substance abuse.

The industry can be demanding for those who choose to make it a full-time career, he said.

"In the kitchen, for example, we work in the heat, long hours, a lot of time, no breaks, long stretches at a time without eating," Letourneau told Portia Clark, host of CBC Edmonton's Radio Active.

"So we're committed to the craft, there's a level of perfectionism that's expected of us."

While many people rely on drugs and alcohol to deal with the stress, Letourneau took a different route.

He decided early on that he would exercise, meditate and eat nutritious food in order to keep up with the demands of his career.

Letourneau admits his healthy living made him an outsider some kitchens, and he missed out on potential friendships.

But Letourneau said there comes a point where people need to decide whether to keep using alcohol and drugs.

"It can be fun on a temporary basis I suppose, but if you're going to make a real go at this, and manage your emotions, you're going to have to give it up," he said.

The event on Nov. 22 will feature a panel with chefs, restaurant owners and mental health professionals.

Organizers are also holding a silent auction to raise funds for Momentum Counselling Clinic.