We must change our attitude to mental health in the professional kitchen

“Being a part of the hospitality industry is a privilege, one that I am grateful for every day. My job is my passion – not only do I love the food, I also love the challenge of working with my hands and the buzz of engaging with people.

“These aspects of the industry are well known and often talked about. When I speak to friends and colleagues we celebrate the unique nature of working in a busy kitchen. But, there is a side to the work that is little discussed.

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“New research by Nestlé Professional’s CHEF reveals that eight in 10 chefs have experienced poor mental health during their career. Even more worryingly, almost half (48%) feel not enough is being done to protect their mental wellbeing in the workplace*. 

“The research confirms what many of us in the industry know to be true, that poor mental health is a serious problem. It’s time for this to change.

“Awareness of mental health and how to maintain it is on the rise across many industries, but the new report from CHEF, At Boiling Point: Addressing mental wellbeing in professional kitchens, suggests that the hospitality and foodservice sector is falling behind.

“Why? This is due to a series of factors that are unique to the sector – the culture of the kitchen, the working patterns, the routes into the industry. 

“Being a chef is, I think, one of the most intensely satisfying jobs there is, but it comes with a price. Working at pace in a busy kitchen comes with its challenges, especially when you are putting your heart and soul into creating the perfect dish. That price should not be the mental health of chefs.

“A few small changes can make a big difference. The At Boiling Point report revealed 62% of chefs think that workplaces changing the way they structure chef shifts to ensure a better work-life balance would support mental wellbeing and fosters long careers*. 

“Other ideas that would build a positive kitchen culture included mental health first aid training in the workplace (supported by 60% of chefs)*, and the introduction of a national chef buddy scheme where more experienced chefs are paired with those in training (supported by 40%)*.

“As a chef with many years of experience, I believe there is a better way. The kitchen should be a nurturing environment, where creativity is celebrated.

“It’s time for us all to pause and reflect on how we can make the working lives of everyone in the hospitality and foodservice industry, not just chefs, a little brighter.”

* ‘At Boiling Point’ survey of 102 UK-based chefs. Censuswide in collaboration with Nestlé Professional and CHEF March 2019
To download a copy of the CHEF report, At Boiling Point: Addressing mental wellbeing in professional kitchens visit: www.nestleprofessional.co.uk/CHEF/at-boiling-point

By Andrej Prokes, consultant chef at Nestlé Professional

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