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LA-based chef Ari Taymor has spoken candidly about his battle with mental health and why he chose to walk away from opening his dream restaurant at the 11th hour.
“At the supposed peak of my career, with a James Beard nomination and a string of other awards in hand, I broke. Except this time I couldn’t keep going. My restaurant was failing; in spite of the immense press we received, we remained mostly empty, often cooking for just a handful of people each night. I had been battling a lawsuit brought by a former customer, and I had eaten myself alive with self-doubt. I possessed no coping skills. I had abandoned my friends and family. I’d completely tuned out the advice of teachers and mentors. What played out over the next few months was a cliché: The restaurant closed, I filed for bankruptcy, and I took stock of my life and saw nothing.”
After seeking professional help and regaining a modicum of balance in his life, the opportunity eventually arose to open his “perfect” stand alone restaurant. But, with a growing sense of dread, he decided to walk away from the deal at the very last minute:
“I wasn't ready, as much as I wanted to be. The wholeness of my life was more important than the arc of my career. I expected responses of anger and frustration at time wasted, of energy spent on nothing. Instead, what I received was overwhelming support, love and kindness.”
Taymor now emphasises to his cooks (Alma has been resurrected at The Standard hotel) that there is an alternative to an all consuming kitchen culture, where “Weakness is something we’re taught to be allergic to as chefs.”
It’s a fascinating read and well worth pouring over in full.