The culinary world was shook to its core when celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain took his own life in 2018. Closer to home Australian chefs Jeremy Strode, Justin Bull and Darren Simpson have also committed suicide in recent years.
But these incidents are not restricted to the hatted culinary world. Chef Alex Piris, of Fox and Bow, knows of three suicides in the Canberra hospitality scene in the past year and he says it's time to do something about it.
He set up a local group called What's On Your Plate? where hospitality workers would gather over a meal and a glass of wine and discuss issues that perhaps weren't being discussed in the kitchen
"Bourdain's death flattened me and I'd confided that in long-time friend and fellow chef Vanessa Scanes. I loved that guy. But there was also Jeremy Strode, Justin Bull ... My question to my friends and colleagues was pretty simple. What was going on?" he said. "It didn't take long for our conversation to open up and realise that close to home some of had experienced some form of tragedy too."
Piris has had support from some of Canberra's top chefs, with Kurt Nuemann, Nathan Kleinig, Darren Perryman, Soc Cochinos and Ben Willis involved.
"It's actually kind of therapeutic. We can never seem to just have a quick catch up. I'm usually kicking people out at midnight. But it shows that there's a real sense of camaraderie amongst the hospitality community. We laugh a lot. But we also genuinely listen to each other's stories. Because we get it. It's something I really love about our game. There's actual respect for each other."
Piris heard of The White Jacket Effect, a movement started in Sydney by chef Amber Kaba who lost her chef mentor and best friend to suicide, and he reached out.
Kaba was determined to start a conversation nationally about the pressures of working in the hospitality industry and help people find the help they needed. The pair decided to bring an event to Canberra where a panel of industry and mental health professionals will meet to start the conversation. The event will be held at The Boathouse on Monday, July 22, from 10am-2pm. For tickets and more information go to whitejacketeffect.com.au
- If you or anyone you know requires support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14, beyondblue on 1300 22 4636 or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800.
Join Glenfiddich brand ambassador Luke Sanderson and The Duxton head chef Matthew Ouwerkerk for a five-course whisky inspired dinner on July 18. Tickets are $149pp plus booking fee and includes a five course dinner with matched Glenfiddich whisky. You will enjoy award-winning single malt whiskies including Glenfiddich 15, 18 and 21-year-old, XX and IPA. To cap the dinner off, you will also receive your very own personalised bottle of Glenfiddich 15yo single malt to take home. More info at theduxton.com.au
Italian and Sons will be showcasing the full range Ar.Pe.Pe. wines along with the food of the Valltellina region at a special wine dinner hosted by importer and Gourmet Traveller sommelier of the year Giorgio de Maria. The Valtellina is a forbidding landscape, a valley carved from hard granite, and it is also one of Italy's smallest and least known wine producing regions. Wednesday, July 31, 6pm. $90pp for a five-course regional menu, wines charged on consumption. Reservations on 6162 4888.