Recipe for Wellbeing: How Chefs Can Prioritize Mental Health

In the bustling world of hospitality, where the heat is always on and the hours are long, there's a crucial ingredient that often takes a back seat: our mental health. If we don’t pay enough attention to it, we’re at risk of anxiety, depression and even burnout. 

We asked eight chefs and culinary leaders for their expert advice on how to protect our emotional and psychological wellbeing. Their tips and insights can help us all to create kitchens that are safe, fair and happy workplaces.

Psychological safety is vital for a healthy work environment 

Working as a chef may sound like a glamorous job for many people, but in reality it is very stressful. We work for long hours, especially on weekends and holidays. Psychological safety in kitchens is a vital aspect of a healthy work environment. You can build this feeling of trust with open communication. It will also help to foster collaboration and innovation among your chefs.

Sherif Afifi 
Chef, Unilever Food Solutions

Be generous with positive feedback 

Good morale starts with you as a leader. Keeping calm under pressure is key. Stay upbeat for your team. Sometimes you won’t feel it yourself, but the people around you benefit from this. It's not often compliments or praise are handed out. That can add to the stress of wondering if you're performing well. Tell your team you appreciate their work.

Laurence Tottingham
Development Chef at Revolution Bars Group

Find an accountability partner to share your struggles

As chefs we can’t ignore our mental health. It’s serious. Build a relationship with an accountability partner and tell them how you are doing. Encourage each other in challenging times. A well balanced life is vital to manage mental health issues. Our industry is stressful, so make time to relax. Be with loved ones, exercise and treat yourself. Speak out and get help. Don’t keep your struggles to yourself. 

Shuni Osano 
Chef, Kwai

Aim to create a safe haven that supports wellbeing and growth 

Working grueling hours for little pay is a cliche in the hospitality industry. We can change that. Think about how you can create an environment where your staff is safe and can grow. Make sure shifts are manageable and people are paid a fair wage. Give time off. Offer a wellness programme if you can, that subsidizes visits to a physician. 

Ferrell Alvarez
Head Chef and Owner, Rooster & the Till

Learn to prioritize and focus on the big picture 

If you have too much to do, take a quick step back. It helps to write a physical list of what you need to do and what is priority, then give yourself time to do it. As a leader, you keep your eye on the overall picture of what needs to be done in the kitchen. Give your team a few jobs at a time so they have space to concentrate on their tasks.  

Jake Mills 
Chef de Partie, Studio Frantzén

A healthy kitchen is about caring for each other’s wellbeing

Building an open and supportive kitchen environment starts with fostering trust and communication. Encourage regular check-ins with team members, both professionally and personally. Create a safe space where they can express their feelings without judgment. A healthy kitchen is not just about great food; it's about caring for each other.

Mahlomola Thamae
Executive Chef, TM Innovations

Follow the beat of your own drum

This industry requires commitment and endurance. If you are going to succeed, you need to be passionate about what you do. When you are driven by excitement, your guests and peers will have a great time. You will too, which is important as we spend a lot of time at work. Be kind to yourself. It’s okay to step out for air when you need it. 

Amanda Fuller 
Group Executive Chef, Sam Prince Hospitality Group

We can break the stigma if we reach out and talk about it

This is an amazing industry to work in because of the camaraderie. As hospitality professionals, we are interconnected with each other. We all know someone who can help us. So if you are struggling, reach out to the people in your network. The more we talk about mental health, the more we break through the stigma. 

Art Ledda
Chef, US Foods

Click here to watch A Fair Chat, where Chef Art Ledda and Chef Alvaro Lima speak up about anxiety, depression and ending the stigma around mental health. 

When the pressure is on, we often forget about our mental health, but that’s when it’s most important to nurture it. As we've learned from these seasoned chefs, the path to balance includes positivity, self-care and support. It's time to create kitchens where wellbeing is prioritized. 

If you want to dive deeper into this topic, sign up for our free leadership training today and get inspired by more tips and insights from chefs and industry experts worldwide.

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