The Other Side of Passion: Mental Health in The Food World

Interview by Billy Shore

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Why do so many restaurant workers struggle with mental health issues and what can be done to help? Food and culture writer Kat Kinsman of Time’s Extra Crispy and NYC restaurateur Will Guidara (Eleven Madison Park, NoMad, Made Nice) talk to host Billy Shore about hospitality and mental health challenges in the food world. Kinsman launched the website Chefs with Issues in 2016 to help bring attention to this problem. “I always tell people, ‘either you have your line cook cry in front of you, or you cry at their funeral’,” she says. Guidara agrees. “Our industry struggles with embracing vulnerability… that’s what gets us,” he says.

Kinsman’s book, Hi, Anxiety! Life with a bad case of nerves, tries to show the reality of what anxiety looks like. “It’s real, it’s pervasive, and has affected every area of my life,” she shares. Guidara talks about the conditions in restaurants that can bring out stress, anxiety and more serious mental health conditions. “Any time you combine… relentless intensity – not only in expectations but in the number of hours you’re working – with an environment where it’s not cool to look weak leads to this situation,” he says. “Our profession needs people doing the things you’re doing now more than ever before,” he tells Kinsman gratefully.

Listen to this critically important conversation that explores mental health and what is being done to help the people who nourish us.

Resources and Mentions:

Kat Kinsman

Senior Food and Drinks Editor at Time Inc.’s all-breakfast site Extra Crispy. She was formerly the Editor at Large and Editor in Chief of Tasting Table. Before that, Kinsman was the Managing Editor of CNN’s Eatocracy, edited CNN’s Matrimony section and First Person essay series and was a writer and editor for CNN Living. She covers food, booze, lady-being, person-being, mental health, disabilities, sex, pop culture, weddings and dogs. She was nominated for a James Beard Broadcast Award in the TV Segment category in 2013. In 2016, Kinsman launched the website Chefs with Issues to help tackle mental health issues in the restaurant world. She also wrote the book Hi, Anxiety! Life with a bad case of nerves which deals with her lifelong management of her anxiety condition and panic disorder.

Will Guidara

Co-owner of Make It Nice, a hospitality group that currently includes Eleven Madison Park, the NoMad restaurants, and Made Nice. A graduate of the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University, Guidara began his dining room training at Spago Beverly Hills and attended culinary school in the north of Spain. He then went on to various roles throughout Union Square Hospitality Group, and from 2006 to 2012 acted as general manager of Eleven Madison Park. He is also the co-founder of the Welcome Conference, an annual hospitality-driven event held in Manhattan that brings together the best minds from the world of hospitality for a day-long discussion. In 2011, Chef Daniel Humm and Guidara purchased Eleven Madison Park, and under their leadership, the restaurant has received numerous accolades. Guidara and Humm have coauthored four cookbooks together: Eleven Madison Park: The Cookbook, I Love New York: Ingredients and Recipes, The NoMad Cookbook, and Eleven Madison Park: The Next Chapter.

No Kid Hungry

Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign is ending child hunger in America by ensuring all children get the healthy food they need, every day.
Eleven Madison Park

Eleven Madison Park

A fine dining restaurant located in the heart of New York City, Eleven Madison Park has received numerous accolades, including four stars from The New York Times, seven James Beard Foundation Awards, three Michelin Stars, and the #1 spot on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list in 2017. In 2021, Humm announced that Eleven Madison Park would reopen with an all vegan menu.

Chefs with Issues

A website dedicated to the care and feeding of the people who feed us. The site shines a light on mental health issues, which run rampant in the food world. It invites people involved in the industry (not just chefs) to share their stories and resources for dealing with the particular pressures of restaurant life, so that other people may feel less alone.

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