Behind the smile

The hospitality industry isn’t always great for mental health. Now we’re doing something about it

Bartender Alex Black is one of the founding directors of Mind the Bar, which works to destigmatize mental illness. Jonathan Norton photo

The conversation surrounding mental health in the hospitality industry is finally gaining momentum. Published studies are showing that hospitality employees are put under extremely high stress compared to most other industries. Statistics Canada shows we top all other industries when it comes to alcohol and illicit drug abuse. To quote celebrity chef Cat Cora: “We are dealing with an epidemic of mental illness in our industry.”

Community leaders around the globe are stepping forward to voice their concerns, and some have publicly acknowledged their own demons. We’ve seen icons like Anthony Bourdain and Sasha Petraske succumb to the perils of mental illness, while others, like chefs Sean Brock and David McMillan, have begun to promote a sober lifestyle.

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Hey, Bartender

Thoughts from behind the wood: Why bartending should be social, not social media

Jonathan Norton/Wildebeest photo

Bartenders are not in the business of making drinks. We are in the business of servicing the needs of human beings. Full stop.

It’s been said that we trained bartenders in the art of mixology and along the way we lost the art of bartending. But in the debate of bartender vs. mixologist, the end goal of both was essentially the same: Be better, be more knowledgeable, provide better experiences, work in better places. I believe both sides would agree that it is unbecoming of a barkeep to seek prestige by any other means than hard work and education.

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