Written on 28-Oct-2016
Since working as an interim chef I’ve experienced a number of kitchens and worked with plenty of brilliant chefs. Pair this with over twenty years in the industry and it has given me many observations of how, at times, it can be a ruthless trade.
Employer: “Welcome along Mr Smith. I see you’re here for the position of the chef”
You: “I certainly am, could you tell me more about the position?”
Employer: “Well it’s an 80 hour week on a £22k a year salary, we’d expect you to work 14 hour days sometimes for 10 days straight, you will more than likely miss out on important family events and you’ll miss out on seeing your kids grow up.”
You just wouldn’t take it, would you?
It sadly is the harsh reality of many kitchens up and down the UK at present. Overworked, underpaid and at times undervalued kitchen staff. Chefs working on days off with no pay and 14 hour days being a regular thing.
Some of these guys have kids and can go 4 or 5 days without seeing them, even though they live in the same house….
The catering industry is a trade that is constantly improving its food standards. Every day there are chefs pushing the boundaries with respect to creating new dishes. It is possibly one of the most innovative and forward thinking industries in the world.
So why are we so far behind the times when it comes to looking after our chef’s health and wellbeing?
Rest and recovery are vital in any physically demanding career. De-stressing and clearing the mind are hugely important too. Shouldn’t we be helping our chefs with this?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting 6 weeks of holiday a year and weekends off (I’d actually prefer to work a weekend) but when many chefs are averaging 60 to 80 hour weeks, why is this normalised? Is this the way forward?
There is currently a national shortage of chefs. My guess is that the working hours are a major factor in attracting new talent to the trade. It simply has to change. A focus on health and wellbeing is essential to ensure we can move forward.
Mental health issues, depression, addiction and gambling are rife in the industry. We need to be more open about discussing and accommodating these issues. Employers need to place more emphasis on staff welfare. I’m not asking for the world, just that chefs are given the same working conditions and support as other professions.
Keith, CJUK Chef