From the Editor: A New Day


Running a restaurant is fraught with challenges. The daily barrage of issues that need to be dealt with range from rising costs to landlord issues to the vagaries of demanding customers. Add to the mix the struggle to adapt to technology, the furious rate of change now part of everyday life and the increasingly competitive nature of today’s business environment, and it’s easy to understand why many business owners lose sleep (see Opportunities & Challenges series starting on p. 22).

The same pressure applies to chefs who are expected to be in top form while working long hours and juggling creativity and fiscal success. Undeniably, the restaurant industry is a pressure cooker. As an example, last month the world’s best chef, Benoit Violier, chef of the Restaurant de l’Hôtel de Ville in Crissier, Switzerland was found dead in his home, at the age of 44, apparently the result of suicide.

Not surprisingly, many in the culinary world question why a chef at the top of his game would take his own life. Some posited the intense pressure of running one of the world’s best restaurants, and worry over possibly losing one of his Michelin stars overwhelmed him (reportedly the Gault & Millau guide had recently given Violier’s restaurant a slight demotion); others speculated losing both his father and his mentor in a short time pushed him over the edge.

Unfortunately, the pressure of perfection and life itself sometimes takes its tolls in ways we can’t always understand. The stories of chefs succumbing to alcoholism and drug addiction are legion. As a story in the Toronto Star the day after Violier’s death stated: “The industry is rife with broken dreams and bankruptcies. The rarefied world of haute cuisine can be especially cruel. Here, the margin between success and failure can be as fine as a single, powerful critic’s review, and coveted accolades such as Michelin’s elusive three-star rating, can literally mean life or death for a chef.” As an example, in 2003, Bernard Loisueau, owner of La Côte d’Or in Burgundy, France committed suicide, following the news he had lost a Michelin star.

Ironically, this industry has long suffered with labour challenges including shortages, training and retention, low wages and more recently, the differing expectations of the millennial cohort (see story on p. 25). But given today’s fast-paced and frenetic lifestyle, the increased competitiveness of the industry, and the inexorable stress and demands of today’s wired world, the industry needs to step up its efforts to ensure time, energy and resources are devoted to helping employees cope with the demands of their jobs as well as helping them to achieve work-life balance. And, schools need to be part of the equation by setting a realistic foundation for eventual success. Some hospitality schools have already stepped up to the challenge. The Culinary Institute of America, for example, now includes a focus on mental health as part of its offerings, giving students the option
to take part in meditation workshops, play on sports teams and have access to counsellors when needed.

Clearly, the days of doing the same-old, same-old, just don’t cut it anymore. It’s a new day, and new approaches are desperately needed.

Volume 49, Number 1

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Rosanna Caira
Rosanna Caira is the editor and publisher of Kostuch Media’s Foodservice and Hospitality, and Hotelier magazines. In her capacity as editor of Canada’s two leading hospitality publications, Rosanna directs the editorial and graphic content of both publications, and is responsible for the editorial vision of the magazines, its five websites as well as the varied tertiary products including e-newsletters, supplements and special projects. In addition to her editorial duties, Rosanna also serves as publisher of the company, directing the strategic development of the Sales and Marketing, Production and Circulation departments. Rosanna is the face of the magazines, representing the publications at industry functions and speaking engagements. She serves on various committees and Boards, including the Board of Directors of the Canadian Hospitality Foundation. She is a recipient of the Ontario Hostelry’s Gold Award in the media category. In 2006, Rosanna was voted one of the 32 most successful women of Italian heritage in Canada. Rosanna is a graduate of Toronto’s York University, where she obtained a BA degree in English literature.

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