FIRSTLY, WHY IS THERE A STIGMA AROUND MENTAL HEALTH IN THE HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY? WHY HAS IT NOT BEEN ADDRESSED UNTIL NOW?
Andrew: I can’t say that there’s any more stigma in hospitality than any other industry, but talking about mental health has always been an issue.
The modern world changes so fast and it’s having an enormous effect on our mental wellbeing. The only good news being, there are more of us instigating change. Now is the time to make it happen.
Doug: The industry has a masculine and strong culture - working long hours and pushing through to get things done at all cost, and to never be ill. The second you take a day off it becomes harder for the rest of the team, which builds resentment and bullying.
PLEASE COULD YOU WALK US THROUGH YOUR CAREER JOURNEY AND HOW YOU GOT TO WHERE YOU ARE TODAY - LAUNCHING PILOT LIGHT.
Andrew: I have been a chef for 20 years and had my fair share of ups and downs. But it was just 3.5 years ago when depression hit me. I was suicidal and in my own private hell, but I fast-tracked recovery through sheer determination and not wanting to pass my pain on to anyone else. I was very lucky to have some good support around me, but that only came through speaking out. My journey with Pilot Light is to help others find their voice and speak out, breaking the stigma.
Doug: I’ve worked in pubs from the age of 18, which is where I learnt a lot from one head chef in particular, who encouraged me to act as a sponge and just absorb knowledge. However, this was where I caught my first glimpse of substance abuse in the kitchens - alcohol to be precise.
I moved on to work on launching a hotel. There was a lot of pressure but I worked hard to quickly move up the ranks. Working breakfast straights (5:30am-11pm/12am) I would then go out, get pissed, not sleep and do it all again the next day. I didn’t look after myself, which turned me into a bit of a dick really.
I eventually moved to Norfolk where I worked at a fine dining gastro pub for two years before getting my first head chef role. It was here that I won the Caterer’ Acorn Award for best 30 under 30 in the industry.
I then met Andrew, though a mutual boss and 18 months later, Pilot Light was born.
CAN'T IMAGINE IT’S BEEN PLAIN SAILING GETTING TO THIS POINT IN YOUR CAREER. WHAT'S BEEN THE TOUGHEST PART / WHAT HURDLES HAVE YOU MET ALONG THE WAY?
Andrew: It’s a tough job that’s for sure and I could talk for hours about tough moments, but I don’t blame the industry for anything that has happened to me. In fact, it was cooking that saved me. But I do recognise that it has damaged a great deal of people too. We need to find a compromise. There are some things we can’t change, but let’s work on the things we can. We need more sustainability with our staff!
Doug: On one occasion, when I thought I was dreaming, I necked a bottle of straight bourbon and then took every pill in the medicine cabinet. It wasn’t a dream and I woke up in hospital. This was the toughest time for me because I was asked by the hotel to keep it quiet. My head chef was very supportive when I went back to work. But I was just treated differently, like everyone knew but no one would talk openly to me about it.