Speak Up

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Chef Stress

Stress is everywhere. Every job, every family, every home and everyBODY is stressed to the max. We get headaches, neck pain and addictions to caffeine and alcohol just to cope with it. Damn, I'm getting stressed just thinking about how stressed I can get. But the stress of a chef is of a different breed than the rest. The pressure in the kitchen is up so high it's no wonder chefs are notorious for pushing the limit of consuming energy drinks to get through the dinner rush and later, liquor to get over the night.

I have to confess that I definitely add to the stress of Erik's job. I'm much better than I used to be. I cannot even believe I used to get on his back about promotions, raises, days off and fair pay. HA. I've since learned to keep my mouth shut. I know he and I want the same things so I've had to relax and let him so things on his own time. But he's still worrying about getting ordering done, revising dishes, training cooks, hiring staff, lowering food costs, and a heap of other things I don't care to think about.

How stressed are your chefs? Do they come home screaming? Moaning? Aching? Wheezing? Crying? Do your chefs induce stress in you just from their stories of work? Mine does! Erik comes home and does a pretty good job of leaving his work in the kitchen, aside from sharing a juicy story or two. It may be wrong to gossip, but it sure does help to keep things light.



Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this blog. My husband is currently stressed beyond belief. We've been together for 8 years and I have never been so worried about him.

My husband works 14-18 hours a day (I'm sure this is no surprise to anyone). He hasn't been out of culinary school for very long and has moved up the ranks pretty quickly because of his dedication and commitment. The past year has taken a serious toll on his health. He is losing his hair, drinking more, gaining weight and just generally falling apart.

Some people tell me that he is not meant for this industry--I don't buy it. He loves his job too much to be in the wrong industry. I have trouble handling his ranting about his days because, to be honest, I don't handle stress well. I get super-stressed just from hearing about his day. But I want to be supportive, so I listen as much as I can.

I don't question his pay, schedule or anything like that. It is just the overwhelming stress of his job that is pushing him over the edge. I feel it is my responsibility as his partner to help him come up with a real way to cope with this stress but I'm at a loss. I've suggested exercise, but he's so tired most of the time that this isn't a real option. I'd love any suggestions that have worked for other chefs.

I want a healthy, happy husband more than anything and could really use some help.


Livingston Cooks said...

The chef's life is composed of opposites - long hours - low pay, fast pace - slow return, maximum effort - minimum appreciation, artistic endeavor - economic viability. It's a push pull paradox.

Being in a professional kitchen is tough every day. Especially as an executive chef. The stress is killer, and yes...your hair can fall out in a short period of time. It's a grind!

All I can say is keep your man happy but don't take any shit either. You're his wife, not his mother! Be a strong woman and be supportive when he's weak. When he's tired, give him a massage and a happy ending and let him fall asleep after an eighteen hour day. On his days off, just be there as his wife - don't aks him to do anything.

Remember...his 18 hours are on his feet. When he comes home, he's thinking of a soft couch, a cold beer and a bit of loving from the woman who stands by him through the thick of it - he's not thinking about going for a walk.

Passion for cooking gives way to earning a living after a while. It's just a job eventually. He will figure that out after a few missed birthdays for his kids.

Bottom line, just be there and be strong. You have as much to get as you give too.

Keep tabs on him too. There are many temptations in the workplace.

Hilary Battes said...

Hold on, Livingston! A wife should give her chef a massage followed by a ....I know you didn't say happy ending! Are you kidding me? A healthy sexual relationship is key is a strong, long marriage. However, suggesting that chefs work so hard that they need this gift after work is bunk.

Dallas, Don't listen to Livingston. You want to help your chef take care of his stress in a healthy way? Devote 5 or 10 minutes a day to talk about things that are stressful...for BOTH of you. Talking about how stressful things can get and validating each other's feelings will help. But don't let it turn into a rant session. 5-10 minutes of "I was so stressed when a 12-top came in at the same time as the Times critic!" and you would respond "That sounds terrible, you must have been going crazy." (make sure to agree with him and LISTEN, not fix things, not say "I'm sure you handled it fine"...agree with him!)Then, help him to listen to you! Try it and let me know how things go.

Anonymous said...

Here's one way to look at it: at least he's talking to you and involving you in his work problems. Knowing what he faces at work - even the little anecdotes - is a way to know him, the person. Your chefs work is 18 hrs of his day, and you only see him one day a week (if you're lucky you get a full day). Therefore, if he doesn't talk to you about it, it is very easy to begin to feel like strangers. Trust me, if the alternative is quietly sinking into TV-mode with a beer and not wanting to talk, you'll be even lonelier than you are.

Perhaps pick the days when you REALLY need to be the one talking, and let him know that gently after his first 5 minutes of complaining or so. Interject at the wisest point possible and say, "I'm so glad you fill me in on all of this. I love hearing about your work; but tonight, I really need an ear too."
I don't know, try it. My guy has little energy to talk after work, probably b/c he is owner/manager and in the front of the house, chatting (sometimes with women) all night, while not putting out fires. I treasure the nights he tells me about work - good or bad.
-Restaurant Bride

Anonymous said...

Everything being said is very true and very valid, and i totally agree the hours are long the pay sucks and it all comes down to dedication and passion.
Ive only qualified as a chef 3 months ago and have very regrettably had to quit due to the impact it was having on my health!!!
2 days off a week (if your lucky enough to get them) fly by so fast your back in that stressful fast paced zone before you know it.
The best way to deal with it all is to talk about it, never bottle it up and use the free time you've got to chill out!!! That is something no chef's do and its time they do it before we have an epidemic of mentally stressed out chefs

David Suh said...

I work in a kitchen that does 200-300 covers a night.. and yes people don't understand the restaurant business.

I my self stress day in a day out. Is everything preped? Is family meal out on time? Did the orders come in right? What's the numbers? How much produce do I need to order for tomorrow? What happens if a cook doesn't show up?

But at the end of the night I sit and have a smile on my face loving what I do. Restaurant business is probably one the most challenging career fields anyone can get into by far....

min said...

hi, im min a twenty something aussie girl chef.
on weekends its the worst and best time in the world. my work, kitchen, coolroom and pantry have (sadly..) turned into my home. i love and hate the industry i feel like a willing slave to it.
i also live with two chefs, our biggest dream is just to get out, knowing we wouldn't ever leave.

my partner vincent is amazing, today i came home cursing, swearing, sweating, cut and bruised.
all he did was hug me till i finished crying, then led me to a bath, left me to soak and then came in with a fantastic sandwich and a beer.
today was the best day of my life.

i think i just wanted to say on behalf of your husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, partners in the kitchen thankyou for your support and love and helping us to keep working in a stupid, unfair industry that we love.


Anonymous said...

Chefing is one of the lowest paid trades in Australia,
$19 per hour
You actually get more at Aldi,
in saying that it is something that you can thrive in and will never know everything there is about food why..well it is so big and all the tardes out there cooking as the most literture so it is safe to say that you are welcome anywhere if you can cook,
but i really want to get out but I do remember my first TAFE day i got told hardcore style..you want no social life, a possible drug,gambling, drug habit, or want to be divorced before 35 this is the industy it is one stop away from being a rock star without the pay check or the cred.


Dave Central Coast NSW Australia

lichaa nassar said...

how wonderfull.i love this blog.i am a chef who own a cafe that feed around 400 custumers a day.i work seven days a week...crazy? verry.but i have a family snd i help lots of telatives.i have no life...my newly wed wife left me and took my little baby with her.its realy not worth it.i would be selling my cafe and hopefully get my wife and life back.good luck chefs.

Anonymous said...

It looks like it been awhile since anyone has posted on here. I am married to a chef and we have a new baby. Some times I can tolerate the schedule of a chef and sometimes I can't. I feel like I am a single mom raising this baby. He leaves for work at 9 or 10 am and isn't home til 10pm. That is a long day for me and for him. When he does get his one day off he is so tired and just wants to sleep all day. I don't blame him he works so hard and so much. But I can't help to think, what about me? You really have to have thick skin to be with a chef. Thank you for creating this blog. I don't think I really know what goes on in the kitchen and for me, I thought I was the only one experiencing this.