I will never forget the day I read about the suicide of French, Michelin Three Star Chef Bernard Loiseau. It’s not because I knew him personally, or was even that well acquainted with the style of his work. What I related to, was his overwhelming sense of desperation with attempting to keep all the balls in the air, within and industry that is as brutal and competitive as it is wonderful.
In addition, unfortunately I lost my own mother to suicide when I was ten, and as is to be expected that tragedy left its mark on me. What was so sad about my mother’s death, and I would assume Bernard’s as well, was that she was so talented and had so much to live for. It’s often those of us with the most passion and talent for creation in life, that can fall into these pits of despair.
The obsessive chase for recognition in the restaurant industry is all consuming and exhausting. When I was twenty six years old I was the original owner of a restaurant in Seattle named Rover’s. The restaurant is still in operation and owned by a wonderful and accomplished Chef Thierry Rotereau. When I owned Rover’s my little place was considered one of the top establishments in Seattle and I was fortunate to garner a fair amount of local and national press as a result.
Although I worked around the clock to improve the restaurants reputation and build my core business. Eventually it ended up costing me my marriage and separation from my two young daughters. My wife was lonely and disillusioned by my obsession for fame and success and right fully so.
In order to get my life back into prospective, I sold Rover’s and headed back home to Los Angeles with my tail between my legs. But what I found most depressing about the loss of that restaurant, was not the business itself. What I learned very quickly was that all of the people I had tirelessly courted. The same people who had treated me like a young wunderkind celebrity chef, dropped me like a hot potato when I sold Rover’s and moved on to the next person as if I had never existed.
realized, with some great sorrow and regret that in many ways I had wasted my time attempting to impress people who could have cared less about me, when I should have focused on my family instead.
From that day on, things changed. Although I love to cook and of course I appreciate a good ego stroking once in awhile (or every five minutes if possible), my wife and four children are my priority. I am a chef and I always will be. But my identity as a man is focused on the more important things in life, like the people I love and the people I know truly love me back.
I grew up in Hollywood surrounded by the entertainment industry and I know better than many people that what goes up must come down. So enjoy your work. Do the best you can to cook at the top of your ability. If fame and fortune comes along great, but remember the lessons of people like Bernard Loiseau. It’s how you live your life on the inside that matters most, not what people think of you on the outside.