C+RC’s VP-Group Publisher, Tom McIntyre, encourages chefs and GMs to be keenly aware of their team’s stories to encourage mental wellness and a proper work/life balance.
Chefs: How many of you have pulled your cooks aside and asked, “Are you okay?”
GMs: How many of you have pulled your Chef aside and asked, “Are you okay?”
There’s a reason I’m asking this question. We just wrapped up our 12th annual Chef to Chef Conference in Charlotte and I learned some alarming facts.
- 71% of chefs sleep fewer than six hours each night. With so little sleep, chefs often become foggy. It affects their brain chemistry and leads to stress, anxiety, false memory and mood swings.
- Chefs are more susceptible to weight gain, knee and back pain, cuts, and burns.
- Chefs are also more susceptible to mental-health issues like irritability, depression and suicide.
As a result, chefs often self-medicate with drugs, alcohol and other destructive behavior.
The most alarming thing I learned, though, is the number 57.
We all know what it means to 86 something. We also know what a 2-top or a 4-top refers to. And 3-all-day makes complete sense.
But what about 57? Did you know that 57 is the average life expectancy of a chef?
This is an intense, crazy profession. It’s not a job—it’s a vocation. Chefs are thick-skinned and used to criticism. They aren’t asking for sympathy, but we owe them empathy. Maybe they need members to better understand their challenges. Or maybe they need GMs to better support them with the tools they need or the labor required to do the tasks asked of their department.
I recently read an article by Andrew Clarke, head chef of the much-admired Brunswick House restaurant in Vauxhall, London. He didn’t hold back in describing the demons he struggled with.
“Inside, I was suffering from a pain so extreme I could barely cope,” Clarke wrote. “I hated who I was and wanted to kill myself every time I came home from work. 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 realize just how real it is.
“Depression can happen to any one of us—don’t suffer in silence,” Clarke added. “Talk to someone. Talk to me.”
Everyone has a story. It’s up to managers to uncover those stories. A pissed-off member has a story. A line cook showing up late has a story. An Executive Chef having a bad day has a story.
We need to be aware of our team’s stories.
For all of these reasons, I’m excited about the kinds of connections and platforms we’re building through the Chef to Chef Conference and the Club + Resort Chef Association. By connecting club chefs with one another, we can share challenges, find solutions and grow each club chef’s support system.
And help 86 the number 57, at least where it applies to chefs’ life expectancy.