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Time for chefs to cast off their macho image

20 February 2012 by
Time for chefs to cast off their macho image

You don't have to scroll too far down your Twitter timeline to reach the conclusion that the commercial kitchen is an overwhelmingly macho environment.

Chefs tweet regularly about the early starts they make, the long hours they work and, in some cases, the numerous beers they consume after service.

But you'll never see them admitting to feeling suddenly and inexplicably weepy; or wondering how they're possibly going to cope with another gruelling service. The commercial kitchen is no place to show any chink of weakness.

We all know the rules: you work hard, you play hard, you don't complain, and you take it when someone above you tears a strip off you. As south London chef Dave Ahern puts it on his blog, Gourmet Guy, "getting smashed on service and coming back for more is a badge of honour".

But of course, chefs can suffer from weaknesses like everyone else. They can feel pressure like everyone else. And they can be as fragile and prone to depression as anyone else.

We don't know what led to the death of former Jamie Oliver chef Kevin Boyle, but what is clear is that he suffered from depression for a long period of time and it is right that his death (http://www.caterersearch.com/Articles/10/02/2012/342278/death-of-kevin-boyle-leads-to-fundraising-for-mental-health.htm" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer">Death of Kevin Boyle leads to fundraising for mental health) should bring this important issue to the fore. Boyle's death has driven Ahern and a team of fellow chefs to instigate a charity dinner to highlight the issue of depression within the restaurant industry.

But if hospitality is to cast off its macho image once and for all, managers will need to embrace their responsibility to their teams by being alert to changes in employees' moods or behaviour, by making time for pastoral care and by engendering a working environment in which honesty and frank communications are favoured over boorish machismo.

calmdinner@gmail.com

By Mark Lewis

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