Why it matters?
And then we realised that we also knew many of these chefs, and we had been working alongside of them for many years without realising the often huge sacrifices they have to make just to earn a living in the job they love.
From that day on we knew that if Unichef was to help chefs then we needed to embrace MHI and work to learn more about those issues and those that have them. We started from scratch, we listened, and we learned, we talked, and we communicated with new friends and associates. We joined the Time to Change project in early years and more recently became very close to MIND in working together to end Mental Health discrimination in our industry.
Today Unichef stands proud in the fact that we have done more to raise awareness of MHI in catering than any other Union, and when we became a CIC we took the inspirational step of enshrining MHI into our constitution, the first Union ever to do so.
We constantly work to make all chefs and employers “aware” that the chefs your working with may have an illness that they often don’t want to talk about, but that they have every day of their lives, they don’t want pity or your money, they just need you to understand.
Taking time to understand that having MHI is a daily strain in what is a hugely difficult job, taking time to check on your colleague, taking time to realise that their life might not be the same as yours, taking time to care, and taking time to support.
So, awareness matters, not just this week but as a constant theme in our everyday lives. Being aware that we have a 1 in 4 chance of working with someone that needs our understanding and a 1 in 4 chance that their bad days are 10 times worse than ours.
Be aware of Mental Health Issues, not just today, but forever.
The Good work Plan 2020
A revolution in working practise is about to impact on our industry and change the way employers engage with their workforce is about to happen, starting in April 2020.
In 2018 the Government commissioned an independent report by Mathew Taylor on how to modernise and inspire the British workforce and its findings and recommendations have sent shock-waves through the Catering Industry.
The principals are to create a British workforce fit for the 21st Century, a workforce that is inspired to do better and to produce more through Employer engagement, improved working conditions and care in the workplace as well as improved regulation and a new Regularly body to police these laws.
Each Industry has its own unique issues and the Catering Sector is no different.
Chefs have suffered for many years from inequality and discrimination, especially in multi departmental establishments, such as Hotels where, clerical staff, reception and HR are all treated differently in terms of facilities and contracts. This will all soon come to an end.
With so much discussion about the future of chefs and what may happen if and when we return to work, many of us have forgotten the other side to the story.Its easy to think only of ourselves but what about the employers and in particular pub and Restaurant owners who have sunk their money and much of their lives into their dream.What is to become of their livelihood and what kind of a future do they see?
We talk to Catherine Spence, the owner of a hugely popular and successful Restaurant in North Yorkshire to see how she feels about the future of her dream?
Q. Hi Catherine,good to talk to you.What changes do you think would be good in the future after re-opening?
A. What I think would be a good idea for you to advocate Brian, would be making the general public realise they need to pay more for meals and stop looking for offers , discounts and money off,then independents could pay higher wages
Q. I agree totally, we have been opposed to 2-4-1 offers for many years and have said that there is simply too many bad Restaurants and too many Branded Chains?
A. Exactly, the chains have ruined the industry, with ready made , vacuum packed food and offers.I’m up against this all the time , we have 2 chains near us and customers always complain that we are too slow, they just don’t get we are actually cooking the food and not putting it in a microwave
Q. I believe that we are about to see a transition to the way we used to be where staff and clients were more highly thought of and that service was a skill and a pleasure.Can you see a future for quality establishments?
A.Yes I can and my plan is to up our game , as there will be fewer diners , go for quality rather than quantity will be the way forward for us now.
Q. With so many restrictions to running a Restaurant,do you see the future as a challenge?
A.The system is against us , to be honest,VAT,business rates ( we pay £9000 a month ) Regulations,Health and Safety etc etc
Q. Are you actively planning re-opening or are you waiting to see what instructions the government have in store ?
A. I’m definitely reopening, we own the property, so need to open,but waiting to see the government guidelines then decide how to move forward
Q. Do you think it is possible to obey the restrictions and still keep your staff and customers safe and maintain the unique and special atmosphere that your famous for?
A. We could maintain the social distancing , but the atmosphere will not be the same , Italian restaurant are usually buzzing, busy and noisy , that will not be the case. It will probably now be a restaurant where people visit as a couple or family. But not in groups or parties for a long time.
Q. Finally Catherine,do you envisage having difficulty recruiting for chefs when you re-open and in the future?
A. No , I think now chefs will not leave their jobs and stay put.
Thank you Catherine
Dear Chefs , friends and colleagues
I, like many of you out there, have spent and dedicated a life to the food and hospitality sectors, and as if our jobs as chefs wasn’t challenging enough, we now stir directly into the face of even greater adversity.
As culinary creatives, artists, scientists, blended with a heavy dollop of hard labour and commonly referred to as chefs, we like to share our skills, offer experiences, excitement and make memories for our guests, more often than not, these are performed in challenging stressful working environments, short staffed, working long hours and not forgetting the low levels of compensation!, but we do it all too often because we love it!
We embrace the service, demands, challenges, excitement and thrills that this industry can offer, whilst also having an eye on even greater opportunities, expansion, projects and goals.
We work in an incredible diverse industry that has the ability to proudly place regions and towns on the British and even global culinary maps, an industry that allows new doors to open in new locations and even countries!. We work within one of the few industries that allows us to cross pollinate our skills in new regions and destinations, meet new people, increase our knowledge, embrace new cultures and culinary diversity in the process.
All of the aforementioned has been pulled from under our feet, our doors closed , our restaurants and kitchens silenced , our lives as we know it cancelled until further notice.
We are however humans and we have an incredible resilience , we do need to make a few adjustments and breath deeper than ever before, but we are also a very large community of special people, thousands of us in the same job, in the same position, with the same frustrations and there is no time like the present to join forces and to help each other when in need.
Together we will all get through this and bounce back with new hope, vigour and determination, we may even appreciate all those things around us a little more of which we once took for granted, we may now understand the fragility of the earth and even those that we share it with!.
We do however need to pull together to help those not covered in the governments furlough scheme, help those that may be looking for new jobs and positions later on or just help break the silence of the day with a friendly e-mail a shared joke or meaningless banter!.
Take advantage of this period of rest and prepare to take to the stage as the performance of our lives is around the corner !.
Stay well , stay safe and look forward to seeing you on the other side.
Alan Coxon, TV Chef / Presenter, Author, Speaker, Culinary Consultant
Multi award winning TV Chef /Presenter, Author, Speaker, Culinary Consultant, Innovator, International Judge and British Ambassador for Food.
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