Stress is a part of modern living. We live in a fast paced world. And everyone has their challenges both at work and home. So a degree of stress exists with almost everyone, whether they are aware of it or not. We are all stressed to some degree – just by the very nature of the way we live.
In restaurants, when staff are stressed – customers notice! Because they don’t smile, they seem agitated, their energy is different. You can see it in their eyes. That fear almost. This makes the dining experience NOT what you want – you want to feel relaxed when you eat. And you will go back to a restaurant that has happy and friendly staff.
Chefs are known for stress, and why do we need now so desperately, a cure for chef stress?
Because, and this is a big because, behind the pass, where chefs and kitchen staff lurk for up to 18 hours a day, every day, stress becomes a dark shadow that never leaves. How can it? Look at the stakes, for god’s sake.
- Time pressure: from the moment kitchen staff clock on, it’s a race against that very clock. The preparation, paper work, ordering, and then service comes all too soon as hungry and now, demanding diners want to be fed. Now! Damn it, and they want the best you’ve got.
- Perfection: the competition is killing, literally, so any place is only as good ever as the last dish put up on the pass. The stakes are high if the staff fuck up even one dish. Social media can put a place out of business faster than a blink.
- Competition: yes, there is competition, more now than ever, as the public are looking desperately for ways to earn a living in a fast changing, volatile job market. So many souls think that setting up and running a restaurant must be relatively easy – it looks easy, doesn’t it? How hard can it be? Impossible, is how hard. Particularly if a newbie has no knowledge or experience to draw on when making big, expensive decisions.
- A fickle public: in a world now, where there are cafés to choose from on almost every corner, and there’s an endless thirst for staged reality television shows about the food world and ‘glamorous’ chefs, the new kid on the block can have its time in the sun. But that time can be short, and owners need to dig deep to carry a business through the first flush of novelty. I advise most owners to allow for a refit and sometimes, a rebranding, every two years.
- Money: with every new set up, there’s big money involved. The pressure is on the chef to deliver, day in day out, and ultimately, he/she’ll cop the blame if things go pear shaped. So all staff, who look to the chef for direction, will feel the stress in some way.
- The nature of the business: every shift is new, every minute is vital. NO HUMAN BEING WAS MADE TO COPE WITH THIS KIND OF RELENTLESS PRESSURE. What does it do? It leads to anger, frustration, emotional blow-outs, an inability to think clearly and process information. And it leads inevitably to long term health problems with anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, addictions, family break-downs.
Our brains were not made to cope with this kind of pressure – and what does it do when it’s not coping? It sends us mad!
I was tired of talk, of well-meaning help lines that don’t actually get in there and change behaviour and trigger points. I wanted a cure for chef stress.
So I am putting it out there – to all my fabulous friends and acquaintances, in the industry. Especially in these times when somehow we’ve pushed through the first bloodbath of Covid, with little to no help from government – how are you all coping with this wild new landscape you find yourselves in?
What’s your MO these days? How can we help, as customers and industry supporters?