Is this your life? Just how long will the thin veneer of paper last with that storm when it hits? And hit it will. Surely as day follows night.
The restaurant world is big. International. Even in Hobart, new venues open every week. What’s the result? Burnout. And the bar has never been higher.
In Australia, if not the world, there’s a chronic shortage of chefs, cooks, floor staff. Too many venues. Not enough staff. What can we do? If anything?
There’s one word that sums up my platform for starting this blog, and moving on to a subscription site that digs deep, and hopefully delivers some help to the industry: sustainability.
We need our restaurants to prosper. We need the owners who take risks and the plunge, to survive. We need our chefs and cooks to love their work, without feeling they’re battling the world every day. Ditto the floor staff. Ditto the owners.
With 10 restaurants behind me as owner/chef, I well and truly know what burnout is. I used to say that I’d been to burn out and back 5 times. At least that I know of. My friends and family would probably say it’s more. And I went through a stage, after my last restaurant, which was a trial by fire, that I couldn’t face a stove without feeling sick. Sick to my core.
This is why the whole industry now worries me. The bar is so much higher. Rents are higher, the public’s demands have never been greater and more and more, chefs are under the spotlight. Literally.
Now there are no dark hidey holes or walls to block the chaos. Everything is on show. What is that about? I sometimes feel we’ve gone right back to Roman times, and restaurants are just small coliseums with the customers baying for blood and bravado.
It’s why I called my memoir “Theatre of War” – restaurants have now truly become less about the food, and more about the show. The food must be presented as art. The chefs, a small hurdle over a bar from the customers, must look cool and in control.
Marco Pierre White’s first book, “White Heat” was a resounding testament to the pressure and stress that a top chef must face daily. And the toll on the crew holding him up. Everybody suffers.
Anthony Bourdain’s “Kitchen Confidential” laid it out like it is. But in all this, there is no searching for a solution. No thrust towards some semblance of sanity. Bourdain’s premature death is testimony to that. And this is where Just the Sizzle comes in.
I’m throwing it out there to you all: chefs, restaurateurs, hotel managers, floor staff, and customers. Give me your issues, tell me your problems, dish the dirt and the despair.
And this, with one proviso: seek and supply a solution. Yes, vent! Yes, rant! Get the heavy log off your chest or your shoulders. But do this with a solution in mind.
Let’s work together, to put out a series of blueprints that can make a difference to an industry in crisis. Let’s work towards a better workplace. Better conditions. Sustainable kitchens, staff, restaurants, hospitality. Less burnout.
Historically, the hospitality industry has grown like topsy – without direction and fragmented. And often, at the hands of local government, drowning in ridiculous red tape and rules that have also grown like topsy. Growth that has been without reflection, and very necessary updating.
And now? After two long years of Covid terror – open, shut, open, shut, what now? We’re going to witness a huge shake up of an industry that even in the best of times was tough. The last two years have been time for reflection for many hospitality people, who decided that the last burn out was enough. Enough.
Let’s see if we can come back from burnout, and paper over the gaping holes of mismanagement, pressure and develop a new, healthy industry that young people will want to work in. Fingers crossed.