The death by suicide of the celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain shocked the whole world in 2018. It brought to light the hidden issues about the life of chefs that people rarely paid attention to. In most cases, chefs give this illusion of loving their job and preparing every meal with a smile to the customer’s satisfaction but that is far from the ideal life of a chef. From years of training to get it right to the high standards that don’t tolerate any mistakes, chefs have one of the most draining lives in the world. The saddest part is that most of them live in a lonely world where they are all they got. Here is a look at the 10 things that make their lives so difficult.
Off The Menu Orders
When a chef swipes in at work, their schedule is already filled up, even before they receive their first order. They look at the menu and match all the available food in the kitchen with all the available ad-ons to the restaurant’s menu. When the orders are coming in, especially at rush hours, it is easier to handle if everyone is ordering on the menu because you already planned for that. However, those that order off the menu means that you have to get a whole fresh pot, go off the schedule and start preparing their orders. So, while the off-menu order may sound like a simple statement for the customer, it is a nightmare for the chef. Always order on the menu whenever you can.
Your Job Doesn’t End At Cooking
When you are a chef, you are also a fishmonger, a butcher and everything else that you have to do to get the meal done. When restaurants make orders, they don’t ask for everything to be cut to your will, so you will get whole lambs, whole goat, whole fish and everything else, so you have to work on all of them before you go to the cooking part. You are also the vegetable guy meaning you are in charge of washing and cutting up the vegetables to size to get the orders done. That is a whole day’s work away from your actual job of cooking.
Dangerous Working Environment
In the kitchen, things that are not hot and heavy may be sharp and slippery. You get the idea; From wet floors and uncountable trip hazards to flying hot and sharp objects that may pluck your eyes if not kill you, a chef’s working environment is like a war zone. You have to be very careful when handling everything from the knives to the hot food to come out with your mind and body intact at the end of the day. Your safety also depends on the carefulness of the staff working in the kitchen, so you have to train them properly and hope that they all keep their cool and a steady hand throughout the working day.
Weekends And Holidays Are Working Days
Weekends and holidays are the days when all of us want to go out and eat which means the chef has to work. Working long hours on weekends and holidays while the whole world is taking a break makes a chef’s life difficult. You can’t match your free time to that of the rest of your family and friends which also immensely hurts your social life. Most chefs also confess that family and friends find it hard to understand when you tell them you have to work weekends and holidays and just can’t call in sick even when you are. Allegedly, the only time a chef gets a day off is when they are in the hospital or in prison.
Long Working Hours
The chef has to come into the kitchen before the first diner arrives and also leave long after the last one has left. While cooking is all fun once you master your skills, you still have to stay at work until after the last diner has left. You also have to clean up your station and take account of the day’s work before you get to sign out. That will happen long after everyone else has left. You work 12 to 16 hours a day and sometimes have to clock long shifts up to 48 hours if the orders keep coming and there is no one else to handle them. The long working hours have been blamed on the strain on the mental health of chefs.
The Work If Both Physically And Mentally Draining
As we discussed earlier, in the kitchen, if what you are handling isn’t sharp and slippery, it is heavy and hot. Your job revolves around cutting and lifting all day. There are few breaks, especially on high traffic days when the orders keep coming. The effort and concentration needed to finish a single day of work for a chef are more than that needed in most regular careers. Being a chef is also a lonely career, where while you have to think about everyone else’s taste and give them the best food, there is very little time for yourself.
Mistakes Are Not Tolerated
Everyone that pays to eat in a restaurant expects the best food and service and that means the chef has to be at the top of their game all the time. The standards set by the health authorities also have to be met, meaning, the chef has to ensure that everything in their kitchen is in the best condition because you don’t know when the health inspectors will come knocking. You also have to ensure that each order is perfect. Sometimes you have to deal with abusive bosses and customers, but you have to keep your cool because one wrong word may destroy your career forever. It is a delicate industry where you are scrutinized and expected to take in a lot without breaking.
You Are Still The Cook At Home
A chef also loves to eat the best food as does their family and friends. Whenever you have a party, family and friends will still call on you to make them the best food. The same happens at home where your family knows you will make them great food. Family and friends are also unsure whether they will be able to make food that you will like because of your career and you just can’t tell them when their food doesn’t match up to yours.
Your Social Life Is Messed Up
Chefs have a hard time getting into relationships because of their busy lifestyles. There is little opportunity to have fun times with your family and friends and also meet new people. Working on weekends and holidays isn’t the best way to spice up your social life. Even on normal working days, you still work late meaning, you are a stranger at home and that is just not the best way to keep family close. Unless you have family and friends who understand, you may end up losing them. There are many chefs who have managed to balance a great career and social lives but it is not an easy job.
Long And Hard Training
You can’t fake your way through a chef’s career; It is either you are getting right or you don’t have one which means you have to train hard and keep up with the trends. Being a chef requires dedication and generally loving what you do, but you also have to train long and hard to get it right. Most chefs’ training takes 3 to 5 years which is longer than it does to get some diplomas and degrees. After the training, you have to make your own way up in the hostile industry to make a name for yourself. It is true that if you are dedicated and working hard, you will make it but it requires lots of hard work and patience and many people give up.