Five ways you can boost mental health in the kitchen

October is Mental Health Awareness Month, which opens up essential conversations in our high-pressure industry. Restaurants and hotels around the world are creating working environments that not only reduce unnecessary stress but also cultivate growth and acceptance. 

We’ve chatted to leading chefs and experts about what they’re doing to help staff who are experiencing mental illness and how they are preventing it, too.

1. Don’t assume

“Some people might not show any outward signs of mental distress. So as a kind of top tip in the first instance, never make any assumptions about people's mental health. I'll always look to have a one-to-one conversation in which you're able to discuss the subject. Common symptoms that you might want to be aware of include that they might behave somewhat differently. An employee who might normally be very chatty might suddenly be very withdrawn or stop interacting.” 

Andrew Berrie
Mental Health at Work National Lead, Mind


2. Put relationships first

“Mental Health Month is a welcome opportunity for everyone associated with the food-service industry to consider the role they play in contributing to a happy and supportive kitchen culture. To improve mental health in the kitchens, I focus on building good relationships, which are very important for mental wellbeing. We encourage kind language in the kitchen and keep things fun. Every now and then we do a video and post it on TikTok, which the team loves.”

Executive Head Chef Kabelo San Molosiwa 
Protea Hotel by Marriott® Johannesburg Balalaika Sandton, South Africa


3. Be open and honest

“I've been talking about it with our staff, saying I feel like we all have a level of PTSD after this year and I feel it on my own personal level. There are all these different difficulties we had to deal with and I just want to make sure you're aware of where I am if I don't seem like I'm myself. I want to be honest.”

Naama Tamir, Co-owner
Lighthouse, New York, USA


4. Treat your staff like customers

“We support the mental well-being of our staff at Patachou, Inc by creating a safety net for them through our benefits programme. We also have destigmatised talking about mental health at work so managers can discuss it with their teams. By treating our staff members like our customers at Patachou, Inc they stay longer, they're more engaged, they're happier and they're better able to serve our customers. They take care of each other at work, creating more closely knit, tightly bonded teams.” 

Ryu Teramoto, Director of Culture and Employee Development,
Patachou, Inc, Indianapolis, USA

5. Create a work-life balance

“We encourage a work-life balance and mandatory breaks, as a well-rested mind is a more positive mind. We pay more attention to schedules, which allows staff to plan their personal lives better. Your days off are yours – there’s a no interruption policy.”

Chef Dion Vengatass
Violet by Vengatass, Cape Town, South Africa  


Some of these measures seem simple on the surface, but they can have a profound effect, as people respond to respectful, open communication. There is so much opportunity for growth – for both our staff and our business – when we put well-being first. 

If you want to build a working culture that supports the mental health of your team, sign up to our free online leadership programme

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