Chef urges others to tackle addictions, saying kitchens can 'normalise' substance abuse

05 November 2019 by
Chef urges others to tackle addictions, saying kitchens can 'normalise' substance abuse

A chef whose drug addiction led him to make an attempt on his own life has urged others in the industry to reflect on whether they need help, saying the kitchen environment can "normalise" substance abuse.

Tom Pymer, 22, was working in Oxfordshire when he sought help from charity Turning Point, who he says were "phenomenal". He had started working in kitchens full-time as an apprentice at the age of 16.

Now two years clean and working as a junior sous chef at the Magdalen Arms in Oxford, Pymer told The Caterer: "I wasn't introduced [to drugs] through kitchens, but when I started working as a chef it was amplified. It wasn't just cocaine, it was every single drug under the sun and I found I couldn't say no to it all. My problem built up slowly over the first three or four years of my career. It was a normal thing to do – the kitchen normalises it.

"Towards the end of my apprenticeship I knew I had a problem as it had gone from a couple of times a week to every single day. When I went to Turning Point, it was just phenomenal. They saved my life."

Pymer (pictured) said he was in the "worst place imaginable" when he contacted the charity, who supported him to ditch drugs, alcohol and cigarettes.

Tom Pymer
Tom Pymer

He has now re-joined the industry and said that not wanting to give up on his career was a huge motivation. Earlier this year he was a finalist in the Craft Guild of Chefs' Graduate Awards.

Pymer has urged others to talk about their problems and seek help. He says: "It's terrible [substance abuse in hospitality], it's really bad. People don't speak about it and it's a massive problem, especially with men, as they hide their feelings – they just bottle them up until it gets really bad. That was my problem –no one knew what was going on.

"We all make mistakes and it's about overcoming problems. Hospitality is a tough, harsh environment.

"I'd urge people to be honest with themselves and, if you think you need help, go to Turning Point. I can't emphasise how good they are; they are absolutely amazing."

To learn more about Turning Point, visit or call 0300 0134 776.

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