Study Anthony Bourdain for college credit at Nicholls State University

In this Nov. 2, 2016, file photo, Anthony Bourdain participates in the BUILD Speaker Series to discuss the online film series "Raw Craft" at AOL Studios in New York.

Today (June 8) marks five years since the chef-turned-TV host and global food culture adventurer Anthony Bourdain took his own life.

His death impacted many, and it was the impetus for some to take action on mental health issues in the hospitality field.

It was the spark to create an ongoing program that’s now at work in Louisiana, providing access to mental health services to people in the field, free of charge.

The program is called Behind You (a riff on restaurant kitchen speak) and it is the creation of  Southern Smoke Foundation, a nonprofit created by the Houston-based chef Chris Shepherd.

“We need to stand up and say there’s a problem, and we need to encourage people in our industry to talk to someone because it doesn’t help anyone just to hold everything inside,” Shepherd said. “It’s time for a change; we’ve lost too many people in our industry. We want to make mental health resources accessible to encourage as many people as possible to take advantage of counseling services.”

The foundation provides support to people in the field in crisis through its Emergency Relief Fund, and New Orleans got a big dose of that support during the worst of the pandemic.

Behind You is a newer program from the foundation that started in Texas, and has expanded to four more states (California, New York, Illinois, and Louisiana). In each case, the foundation works with a university affiliate to provide counseling and other mental health services. In Louisiana that partner is LSU. That partnership has become a model the foundation is using to expand its program further around the country, said Catarina Bill, director of programs and philanthropy for Southern Smoke.

Behind You is aimed at people working in the food and beverage industry who work at least 30 hours a week at a food and beverage establishment and have been employed for at least six months. Find details and application materials at

In the fall, Southern Smoke will hold its annual fundraiser for its programs in Houston, Oct. 13-14. This Southern Smoke Festival gathers culinary talent from across the country to participate, and this year that includes many New Orleans chefs, including Nina Compton of Compere Lapin and Bywater American Bistro, Ana Castro of Lengua Madre, Mason Hereford of Turkey and The Wolf, Hungry Eyes and Molly’s Rise and Shine, Blake Aguillard and Trey Smith of Saint Germain and Ryan Prewitt and Stephen Stryjewski of the Link Restaurant Group.

Get festival details at

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