A 15-year hospitality industry veteran, Jamie Pruett knows the struggles of working in a kitchen. He also knows that stress can sometimes manifest into dangerous habits.
“In our industry, substance use and use of various things is not only prolific, it's encouraged and sometimes celebrated, like look how hard we can party after we work as hard as we work," Pruett said.
Pruett quit drinking alcohol four years ago with the help of Ben’s Friends. It is a sober support community with meetings online and in-person specific for people in the restaurant industry. Pruett is now starting meetings in the Nashville area.
Ben’s Friends was started in 2016 by a couple of long-time restaurant workers who were also sober and tired of losing friends and colleagues. Mickey Bakst is one of the co-founders.
“Ben was working in a kitchen with three other sober chefs and he couldn’t say I needed help. Drew was 25 years old and he cooked a special meal for all these people. That night, Drew went home and drank himself to death celebrating. That was my moment," Bakst said.
The pandemic and Zoom brought a lot more people to Ben’s Friends. Meetings are happening in nearly 20 cities across the country.
Ben’s Friends is willing to train other restaurant workers how to start chapters and lead meetings in their community.
They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.