Let’s face it, most of us who work in food and wine do so because we love eating and drinking first and actually working second. I can’t imagine working around anything else.
When you’re involved in the promotion of said activities, and it is literally your job to convince people to eat and drink certain things (for all the great reasons that we share daily), it is easy to become completely enveloped yourself. Why? Because most of us do this work out of passion and we have the good fortune of representing brands we wholeheartedly believe in. We wouldn’t have it any other way. But the combination of staying up late, networking, losing your voice at events and a endless supply of alcohol and food can do a number on your mind, body and spirit.
I’ll spare you the wellness-speak (which I appreciate but am not as much of an expert on as drinking), and share some rational on-the-ground tips that have kept me sane over the last eight booze-infused years:
Have a life outside of work. Don’t just look for balance, find it: One way to be successful in this business is to lose yourself in it – i.e. by making every single moment outside of work somehow work-related. I’ve encountered plenty of colleagues who, over time, allow their entire life to become defined by their job. I get it, this is a small and very social industry so it’s quite easy to do so. Just be aware of how much time you spend outside the office at activities specifically related to booze and PR. Look around at your next dinner party – are 95 percent of the people there somehow connected to your industry? Before you know it, all your socializing could be based around people you only know because of your profession – and that makes for a narrow and one-sided life. Whether it’s learning Muy Thai like my friend Sarah or volunteering, be sure to spend plenty of time at places where no one will ask you what you do for a living.
Don’t eat and drink everything you can, all the time: We are especially fortunate to have access to popular chefs, trendy restaurants and amazing food through our day to day work and an abundance of raw material that winds up in the office for one reason or another. It can be tempting to partake in all of it. I mean, you can’t exactly turn down a glass of amazing back-vintage wine a somm friend poured you, when you know the restaurant only sells that wine by the bottle. So, balancing what you eat and when you drink is paramount. If you don’t, there are real, health-related consequences. I see these consequences all the time amongst colleagues who have been in the business for decades and I take it as a warning. Take a couple small bites and keep it moving. And make sure you have “off-days” – whatever that means to you. My husband and I have a couple vegan days at home every week, which work nicely and save money.Develop a network of people that don’t work in your industry, it will inspire you.Click To Tweet
Develop a network of people that don’t work in your industry, it will inspire you. Believe me, you’ll be better at your job if you spend plenty of time around people who don’t really understand what you do and couldn’t care less about it. I have plenty of friends and relatives who don’t get why I absolutely “have” to eat at a particular place or fixate on a specific dish I had. The point of view of people who eat to live (mostly for physical nourishment) and don’t get excited about technique, preparation, ingredients, or nerdy wine is valuable and refreshing. Not to mention, it provides great insight into how consumers outside the food and wine cognoscenti bubble think. Take plenty of pauses away from your own Kool-Aid. Not only will your mind be clearer, but you’ll be more creative at work too.
Learn to drink as if you’re at a trade tasting – all the time: I’m always surprised by the amount of drunk people I see at industry events who should know better. In many cases, spitting is the exception and not the rule, when it should really be the other way around. This is a complex and sensitive topic that can become problematic – which Cathy Hughye addresses insightfully. Yes, a great deal of client meetings and important negotiations are held over bottomless glasses of wine. I know several people who have lost booze-related jobs because they overindulged in front of a client. The bottom line is, if for example, you’re hosting a wine dinner, keep it at a 1 oz. swig of each wine or less – instead of partaking in an entire flight. Or sip just what you need to figure out if a pairing works well. You’ll be very glad you did the next morning.
Most of us love this industry, but over time, there IS such a thing as too much good wine. The better you get at balancing how your work impacts your life, the longer you’ll be able to enjoy those off-menu gifts from your line cook friends!