Keeping your cool in the kitchen

Author: 

Nargis Jafferali

Keeping your cool in the kitchen
“The hospitality industry is unfortunately known for sky-high rates of mental health issues, alcoholism and drug abuse.”

A career as a chef can be a rewarding and fulfilling one, but like many other professions in modern society it can affect a person’s mental health in quite a serious way.

Think of a busy kitchen, and a screaming, shouting Gordon Ramsay springs to mind doesn’t it?! Certainly working in a busy kitchen, with the long hours and tough demands being put on you, chefs can be made to feel like they’re working in a real-life pressure cooker, and many do struggle to overcome the challenges of finding balance and peace within this type of working environment.

In May 2018, former ‘MasterChef: The Professionals’ semi-finalist Andi Walker tweeted about his own struggles with depression, commenting “The hospitality industry is unfortunately known for sky-high rates of mental health issues, alcoholism and drug abuse.” At the time, he had witnessed the attempted suicides of three of his closest friends, and it had understandably affected his own mental health as a result.

A study of professional chefs in London conducted by the union, Unite in 2017, found that a massive 51% were suffering from depression due to overwork, and more than half admitted to taking painkillers or drink to get through the intense shifts. With the pressure of accolades in this sector and standards being raised every day by fierce competition, it’s unlikely these consequences will diminish any time soon.

There are plenty of kitchens experimenting with simple tactics to combat this problem. Replacing gas stoves with induction to reduce heat and noise; preventing staff from swearing; hiring more women to encourage a softer and more balanced dynamic – they’re all great ideas to create a more comfortable workplace for chefs.

In wider society, mental health has become a hot topic for discussion, both in and out of the workplace. The creation of various initiatives, such as Heads Together (spearheaded by The Royal Foundation) and Time to Change, are all helping to stop the stigma of mental health and open up people’s opportunity to talk about issues.

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