When you read the title of this post, you probably think we’re talking about sharp knives and burns. But even though injuries are one of the health risks associated with being a chef in the hospitality industry, there are many more serious issues to worry about. Unfortunately, this is a problem that is often overlooked, which means that many people’s health is suffering and nothing is being done to protect them. These are some of the serious health issues facing chefs in the hospitality industry right now.
Stress Related Health Issues
Anybody that has ever worked in a kitchen will tell you it’s one of the most stressful jobs there is. It’s so fast paced and when you’ve got orders coming in faster than you can get you out, the stress levels soon rise. Kitchens can be quite volatile places and those that work in there come to expect choice words and raised voices as a hazard of the job. The thing is, working in that hyper-stressful environment for a long time has a serious impact on your health because, as is well documented, stress is a key factor in many health problems.
People that are incredibly stressed may lose their hair quicker than they otherwise would have done, for example. There are a lot of reasons that people find themselves in need of a hair transplant and sometimes, it’s down to age. However, more often than not, it’s down to severe stress. On the more serious end of the scale, you have problems like high blood pressure and increased risk of heart disease.
Poor Diet And Lack Of Exercise
The unsociable hours are another of the difficult things that chefs have to deal with, and they often lead to unhealthy lifestyle habits. Chefs usually work during normal eating hours and often work split shifts, so finding time to eat well is tough. Many people find that they don’t have the motivation to cook either because it feels too much like work, so they’re far more likely to eat convenience foods and takeaways, without any semblance of a regular eating pattern.
Finding the time to exercise is also incredibly difficult for chefs that have an irregular work schedule, so it is very common for them to suffer the ill effects of a bad diet and lack of activity.
Substance Abuse And Addiction Issues
Alcohol and drug abuse is a hidden epidemic in the hospitality industry, particularly among chefs. It’s an incredibly high pressure job and many people find themselves turning to drink and drugs to unwind after a long shift or to keep them going during service. In fact, studies show that chefs are almost twice as likely to be addicted to drugs or alcohol.
The issue is that chefs start using alcohol as a coping mechanism and more often than not, they’re in an environment when it’s readily available. They will usually be offered a drink after finishing a shift and it quickly becomes a habit that they rely on instead of a casual drink to wind down after work. Although this problem is now being acknowledged, especially after notable figures in the industry like Gordon Ramsay highlighted it in a recent documentary, there is still a long way to go. Ramsay has also come under fire as he is often considered one of the worst examples of the toxic restaurant culture that contributes to these issues in the first place.
Mental Health Issues
Mental health issues are tied in with stress and addiction issues, but it is worth noting that even those chefs that don’t have a problem with drink or drugs may still suffer with their mental health. Working in such a volatile environment with very little time off and poor sleeping patterns soon leads to more serious mental health issues like stress and anxiety. Starting conversations about mental health in men is difficult because there is still a lot of stigma around it and many people feel that talking about it makes them weak and opens them up to criticism.
This problem is exacerbated in the restaurant industry because kitchens are often very male-driven environments with a lot of toxic energy flying around. There is also a sense that if you can’t stand the heat, you should get out of the kitchen. In other words, step up to the plate and do the job without complaining, or get out. Many people in the industry feel that they cannot voice their concerns because this will just be seen as them being unable to handle the job.
Unless this culture changes and support is made available for those that are struggling with the job, the mental health crisis in the restaurant industry is only likely to get worse.
Although they are not the most pressing health concern, physical injuries are still a problem for chefs. But cuts and burns are only a minor issue and there are far more serious long term health conditions to consider.
Leaning over a cooker or a work surface all day long can put a lot of stress on the back. Work surfaces are designed to be roughly the right height for everybody, which means that they are never the perfect height for an individual. Over time, the strain from leaning over and from lifting heavy pots and pans all day long can do a lot of damage to the discs in the spine. Chefs can alleviate their back pain by using a small stool and raising their foot for short periods. This will help to stretch out the back and prevent damage.
It’s common knowledge that the restaurant industry is stressful, but many of us are oblivious to the serious health issues faced by chefs today. It is clear that the high-pressure environment, toxic culture, and poor working environment need to be addressed in order to protect the health of chefs throughout the industry. Although steps are being made in this direction and many high profile chefs are talking openly about the issues, there is still a long way to go.