Q&A with Chef, Author and Social Advocate, Suzanne Barr

Photo by: Samuel Engelking


We’re excited and proud to feature Board Member Suzanne Barr. She is a renowned chef and passionate advocate for mental wellness in the industry. We are thankful to have her as a leader and member of our community. Suzanne brings personal awareness and lived experience to our efforts of increasing efforts on workplace mental health in our industry. Below are excerpts from a conversation co-founder Hassel Aviles had with Suzanne about her journey into the industry and why she became involved with Not 9 to 5.


Q: How did you decide to work in the industry?

“I had gone away for the weekend to an ashram and while I was working in the kitchen I felt a connection to what I was doing and thought, I want to cook food that heals, food that matters. I want to create menus and make dishes that will help people feel good about life. This experience bolstered my desire to embrace cooking for wellness after my mom passed away from cancer a few years prior.”

Q: Why did you decide to support Not 9 to 5 and become involved in this kind of work?

“Not 9 to 5 touches on a personal place for me. My partner was dealing with addiction at the peak of our busy time at our restaurant Saturday Dinette, and I was thrust into the task of navigating our personal struggles with our professional goals and for the first time I felt a connection to this side of the industry. I also saw firsthand how fragile this industry is and how quickly those who work in it can spiral – the culture rewarded those who would “push through” or “suck it up”, and punish those who were brave enough to be vulnerable and ask for help.”

Q: So, what do you think we need to do as individuals to combat this perceived image of the industry and make it better?

“We need to push kindness to ourselves and to one another because we don’t know people’s point of entry or personal situations and when we acknowledge that, we can stop resorting to judgment and stigma.”

Q: What efforts do you implement as a leader to address workplace mental health?

“I think that it’s so important to ask ourselves, are we doing everything we can be doing to bring awareness and lift people up?— We want to continue to do things that elevate not just the team morale but the individual person, because everyone comes in with something unique and different that can make an impact on each other. It’s important to create a space of support where everyone knows they can reach out to anyone when they need it. I never got to work in a space like this, so why not take the opportunity to create an environment like this for others?

I hear all the time from people that they need to get out of this industry, and it breaks my heart because we all have the capacity and capability to do good. But we need to start to ask what we can do as an industry to show that it’s okay to ask for help, it’s okay to be vulnerable and that these are not signs of weakness.”


Find more on Suzanne Barr here: