On a recent Tuesday morning, about two dozen people gathered around a long table in the old brick building that houses the Jacobsen Salt Co. in Portland, Ore. All were somehow connected to the restaurant industry: chefs, line cooks, servers, bartenders, a bouncer, a sommelier, a retired restaurateur. All were also committed to somehow staying sober.
Gabriel Rucker, whose restaurants Le Pigeon and Canard are about a mile away, read a preamble and then opened the only West Coast chapter of Ben’s Friends, an alcoholism and addiction support group for those in the restaurant industry. Rucker talked about the stress of working over the Memorial Day weekend, and the discussion soon broadened to familiar issues of long hours, difficult kitchen situations, wage concerns and the toll the job takes on family life. The thread of not drinking or using drugs wove through the conversation like kitchen twine.