Four months after Indigo Road's Steve Palmer and Charleston Grill GM Mickey Bakst started the addiction support group
, Chef Scott Crawford of Crawford & Son
has expanded the program in Raleigh.
Crawford, a close friend of Palmer and Bakst, says starting his own branch of Ben's Friends was part of the plan all along, he just had to find the time after opening his new restaurant.
"I was in those early conversations with Steve and Mickey. I remember Steve saying, 'I want to do something.' I said, 'I want to do something.' Mickey said, 'I want to do something.' Finally Steve said, 'We're doing it.'"
After participating in Charleston's Ben's Friends meeting while Crawford was here for Charleston Wine + Food, he says he couldn't wait any longer.
"I walked out of that meeting so inspired," he says.
Crawford's own addiction story is one he only recently made public. In December the News & Observer
published "Raleigh chef Scott Crawford’s leadership style is rooted in his own health scare
," a close look at Crawford's life, struggle with Type 1 Diabetes, and history of cocaine and alcohol abuse.
"That came out and I started to get people reaching out to me," Crawford says. "I spent hours the following morning responding to people who had reached out. Some were in almost desperate need. Others said 'I've been looking for something like this for so long.' Even if they're in a program, they're longing for a group they could relate to. That was the first thing that struck me."
That's why Crawford thinks Ben's Friends is such an important organization for those in the F&B community to have — it's relatable. "There's a great camaraderie that we have in the industry already. At the Charleston meeting, it was the same thing."
Crawford just hosted Raleigh first Ben's Friends meeting on Sun. March 19 and he said the turnout was incredible.
"Friends came by just to drop off food. It was exactly how amazing I thought it would be," he says. "But also eye opening to see the need. You start to think, is one meeting a week enough?"
But multiple support meetings a week is a heavy burden for an already busy chef to carry. One wonders why someone like Scott Crawford, a chef who has been a James Beard Foundation Best Chef Southeast semifinalist four times and has been named one of the top 100 chefs in America by Esquire
magazine, feels the need to shoulder the emotional weight of such a program.
He says the answer is simple.
"I was on the other end of that calling someone who was taking those calls and listening to my emotional cries for help," Crawford says. "I've done a lot of amazing things in my life, but I'll tell you, nothing I've ever done has felt this right."
Ben’s Friends Raleigh meets every Sunday at Crawford and Son, 618 N. Person St. Raleigh. Those who wish to contact Scott Crawford may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Ben's Friends Charleston meets every Sunday in the Cedar Room at 11 a.m. For more information, visit Ben's Friends on Facebook or reach out to Mickey Bakst at email@example.com or Steve Palmer at firstname.lastname@example.org.