Chefs are notorious for working between 50 and 70 hours a week, often on weekends and evenings with shifts lasting an average of 12 hours. While many chefs love what they do and the career is very rewarding, it's easy to get burned out and many people suffer from physical and mental problems that can have detrimental effects on their life.
On 31 January 2016, Benoît Violier, who had been called the "world's best chef" and owned one of - if not the best - restaurants in the world, committed suicide.
His death shone light onto the high pressures that come with being a chef and a perfectionist industry which the New York Times described "shuns signs of weakness and promotes a culture where culinary demigods can be demoted with the stroke of a pen."
Violier isn't the only food professional to have succumbed to the enormous pressures of the industry. Andrew Clarke, head chef of Brunswick House restaurant in London, admitted on Instagram that he suffered from depression just three years ago, due to working 100 hours a week, which nearly overwhelmed him.
"More than a quarter of chefs admit to drinking to help them get through a shift, 56% take painkillers and an alarming 51% suffer from depression due to overworking."
According to a 2017 survey by the trade union, Unite.
Stress in the kitchen and working long hours are nothing new but not everyone can cope with the pressure. It's reported that many chefs turn to drink and drugs to help them get through a shift and to escape the bullying in their workplace.
Benoit Violier, who was touted "the world's best chef" committed suicide in 2016. Image credit
Last year, the UK's biggest trade union, Unite, conducted a survey about professional chefs in London. It was found that nearly half worked an average of 48 to 60 hours a week, more than a quarter drank to help them get through a shift, 56% took painkillers and an alarming 51% suffered from depression due to overworking. And that's only chefs in London, never mind the rest of the UK or even Europe.
Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay's documentary, Gordon Ramsay on Cocaine, highlighted the industry's dependency on drugs. Apparently, "everyone's on them" - something we see in the programme when he goes around the toilets in one restaurant with wipes that change colour when they come into contact with cocaine.
Luckily, it's not all doom and gloom. Launched in December 2015, Chefs With Issues is a website that encourages chefs to talk about their experiences so they don't have to go through it alone. And Clarke's Instagram post (that we mentioned earlier) encouraged many fellow chefs to finally admit that although they love their job, it constantly risked destroying them.
This was me 10 months ago. Inside I was suffering from a pain so extreme that I could barely cope. It hit me like a ton of bricks at a time when I least expected it. I couldn't eat, I couldn't sleep, I rapidly lost weight and my only fuel was nervous energy but that was running out. I hated who I was and wanted to kill myself every night I came home from work. The loneliness and despair was crippling. But I’m very lucky to have some very special people in my life. My family and friends helped me through the darkest of times. I stayed strong for them and faced my demons. For as much pain as I was going through, I couldn’t possibly pass that on to them. I gave up drink and drugs and worked my arse off everyday. 100 hours a week. Each service pulled me gradually out of hell. I was very happy with my work and so proud of my team. I found a lot of reasons to live and even though I’m not 100% recovered yet, I work on myself everyday to stay strong and positive. 2016 has been good to me so far and I’ll make damn sure next year is even better. I never believed in depression and only ever saw the world in a positive light. But it's not until you experience it, that you realise just how real it is. I now reach out to people going through the same. I want to give as much as I can back, through charity or voice. Depression can happen to anyone of us. Don’t suffer in silence. Talk to someone. Talk to me. #worldmentalhealthday
A post shared by Andrew Clarke ⚜ (@fleurdelysldn) on
When you look down at the dishes of beautiful food, it's easy to forget how much hard work went into their creation. Chefs are under huge pressure to get their dishes perfect, their customers smiling and their establishment succeeding. But not everyone can cope, which is why the food industry is rampant with depression, anxiety and substance addictions.
Sadly, this issue is too rarely addressed, never mind treated. So let's talk about it.
Why Shoes For Crews Europe Cares About Your Wellbeing
Shoes For Crews Europe care because we're all about health and safety - from mental health to avoiding potential hazards.
While you're ensuring you and your team are feeling happy and supported, you also need to make sure you're all working as safely as possible. When you have to stand all throughout your shift, your feet can take a toll. Invest in high quality, slip-resistant shoes, which can help to keep you and your feet safe.
Want to Find Out About the Latest Food Trends for the Restaurant Industry?
As well as investing in safety shoes and ensuring that your restaurant team's mental health is on top form, you need to make sure you're all up to date with the latest food and flavour trends. Download a copy of our FREE Flavour Trends of 2018 eBook for the flavours and cuisines your restaurant needs to be implementing this year.