Local chef Gerard Craft is among the most notable restaurateurs in the region. He’s won the coveted James Beard award for "Best Chef: Midwest" for his restaurant Niche; he operated a successful restaurant group; and his eateries included Pastaria, Taste Bar and Brasserie — all of them both popular with diners and restaurant critics.
But he’s also secretly dealt with intense anxiety. In a new essay published Monday on the website Plate, he wrote that he decided to close Niche in part because he was worried it could only fall in the rankings.
“In my town, there is a top-100 list, and Niche was listed as the No. 1 restaurant. But then every year, I would panic that Niche would be knocked off the top spot. That fear was ultimately one of the major factors that went into the decision to close the restaurant in 2016. I thought that if we went out on top, we couldn’t be knocked down,” he stated.
Craft joined host Sarah Fenske on Friday’s St. Louis on the Air to talk about his battles with anxiety and the way rankings and awards wreaked havoc with his well-being.
To get out of the dark place he found himself in, where he questioned his expertise and success, Craft started to see a therapist and psychiatrist, and encourages others to seek professional help as well.
He credits a combination of things with helping him: “from medication to learning skills to just kind of perceive what is your own negative thinking versus what is reality,” he said. “Which I think is very important. Because I think there are times when your anxiety is created by things that you really need to tackle, [or] like something going on in the restaurants or whatever.”
He added that he received a lot of feedback from chefs across the country who deeply related to the sentiments he shared.
“It's really been amazing to see the response,” Craft said. “I don't know if it's great, or just super alarming, but I do think it was great that everybody starts to understand that you're not alone.”
Listen to the full discussion:
“St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill, Lara Hamdan and Alexis Moore. The engineer is Aaron Doerr, and production assistance is provided by Charlie McDonald.
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