Starting in 2015, Unichef is the UK’s National Union for chefs. Run completely by Chefs, the aim of the union is to support and understand the issues that many chefs are faced with in today's hectic kitchens, and to focus on the many changes that are needed within our industry for the betterment of all chefs regardless of position, category, age, ethnicity, or gender.
“Not just a Union, but a Philosophy for the future”
In 2015 Unichef were the very first chef organisation to openly discuss Mental Health Issues (MHI) in our profession, before that so many suffered in silence.
In order to create that safe space for discussion we needed to learn and embrace all that was being said to us. We knew as a Union that we could never fully understand what is like to suffer from such conditions but we also knew that we needed to care and support our fellow chefs.
That culture of finding safe spaces become more and more an essential part of our work, and so too we learned about how to embrace more and more the various aspects of our chefs’ lives, from those that suffered with IBS, Strokes, Autism and Asthma. Over the years Unichef has reached out and embraced all aspects of the lives of working chefs.
We never pretend to “understand” but we have learned to embrace, support and care, and we could not have done this without creating such safe spaces in which to openly discuss these important issues and having those chefs brave enough to come forward and help us to do that, without judgement or fear.
Today we can now say that we are in such a position to bring forward that support and care for our LGBTQ+ community.
For those that wonder just what sort of role Michelin and AA rosettes and future have post pandemic then this excellent article by Andy Lynes may begin to throw some light as to why many in the industry now believe as we do that the accreditations system in the UK is well outdated and is no longer fit for purpose (as if it ever was?)
We take no pleasure that any good hardworking Restaurant needs to close and that chefs will be disbursed into other jobs and sectors, but this is surely the now the defunct model of chefs spending fortunes on the latest equipment, gadgets, plates in order to achieve the once converted Michelin Star.
“Private Chef Giants La Belle Assiette to sponsor The National Chefs Union”
Unichef, The National Chefs Union, are delighted to announce that Europe’s premiere Private Chef Hire and Home Dining experience La Belle Assiette have agreed to sponsor Unichef for 2022.
This special and unique agreement will focus on the substantial wellbeing and rewards opportunity’s enjoyed by both LBA chefs and Unichef members.
As Executive Director of Unichef explains:
“for the first time a company has enlisted the services of a union to promote its in house benefits whilst at the same time allowing all of its chefs to Join a Union free of charge, it is totally visionary and inspiring”
This is the very first time a company employing freelance chefs have ever enlisted the support of a National Union and LBA Chief Executive Guillaume Cussac explains just why this partnership is so special, he says this:
"We are very pleased to support Unichef and all of the amazing work they do for the Chef industry. As the UK's leading private Chef company, Chef wellbeing is key and at the heart of what we do; supporting Unichef just made a lot of sense"
It's really hard to believe but bullying and harassment still goes on in our kitchens today,even with many headline storey's and constant press attention,its almost as if Chefs seemed to think they are on another planet?
Without question, one of the major issues we face in modern British Cookery is the myth that has grown over recent years that all chefs must adhere to the now perceived look that has been portrayed by media, film and social media that British chefs should be male, white and (preferably) tattooed? We now have a "look" as to what people think a British chef should look like??
This way of thinking is now ingrained into British cookery and is a cancer that has spread to many of those companies and institutions that have a social responsibility to uphold standards for the future.
Unichef endorses #Fairkitchens
The National Chefs Union,Unichef has agreed to fully endorse the new flagship accreditation and training scheme Fair Kitchens.
The scheme sponsored by Unilever aims to provide free leadership training in interpersonal skills and will accredit kitchens with a criteria based award that will acknowledge Fair pay,fair hours and fair conditions within that establishment.
Unichef will be supporting the scheme with regular updates, information and guiding chefs towards the Leadership Training Scheme.
Executive Director Brian Mcelderry writes” Fair Kitchens will, for the first time, give a clear accreditation to those employers who seek to give their workforce better pay and conditions and will give customers a true indication of how staff are treated within each establishment, and this will become the “kitemark” for all British Kitchens in the future.
The news that the government has set up a “task force” that has zero shop floor representation has been met with dismay and anger.
The new Hospitality committee comprises of the Business Minister Paul Scully and Business Executives who all have a vested interest in seeing the industry return to prosperity.
They have been seconded to ensure that the government’s 22 point plan for recovery is supported, implemented and encouraged within the industry.
However the very point that they intend to do this without recourse to any Union or representative body is quite beyond belief and belies the very attitude that is ripping our industry apart. That those who oversee a “them and us” vision of our future should take a long hard look in the mirror as few of them can truly hold their hand up when they are asked if all of their workforce are secure in their employment, happy and feel safe and protected.
Never could we have envisioned that the very cause of much the deep concerns in the industry are now in the very hands of those who have in recent years overseen much of the abuse of its workforce fueled by mass immigration and poor expansion planning.
The National Chefs Union has now written to those MP’s that supported the call for our own Hospitality Minister earlier this year and have demanded an urgent review of the Council, its role and the lack of diverse representation.
This appalling lack of sensitivity and respect shows contempt for the very people that they employ.
This “let them eat cake” attitude has to stop and its has to stop at the very top if we are to achieve a better future for those that we seek to employ. That they do not seek engagement with the workforce through their representatives shows an unwillingness to accept the worker empowerment that is sweeping across our industry and a fear of those that seek change.
Recent events have shown to the media and outside world that a shocking environment exist inside of many UK kitchens. Yet within the industry none of this is of any surprise, such is the now systemic nature of workplace abuse within our sector.
Recently, I had a notification from Linkedin telling me that’s someone wished to be included in my professional network, nothing new it happens every day. As you process that notification a panel appears that allows you to connect with likeminded professional’s and as
On the eve of an historical meeting between representatives of the industry and Government officials, it is good for everyone to know just exactly why we need our own Hospitality Minister and just why we seek to get closer access to the corridors of power. Much has been said but we think it is time to set out just what we aim to achieve when we do get our own Ministerial Official.
Ministers work between Government and the elected bodies and representatives of an industry. They consult and formulate and implement plans and legislation on behalf of that industry, liaise with and consult with that industry for the betterment of all involved, to create a better and more functional industry.
They can and do act independently but they also work together with the industry on new plans and the implementation of agreed plans and legislation. They can also advise and help draw up papers to put before government that might need new legislative approval.
The advantages are that government get an insight into the industry and that the industry concerned can get first-hand information and advice on any new or proposed plans moving forward.
The National Chefs Union already has an extensive list of items to put before our new Minister which include.
*The creation of a timetable to oversee the implementation of the Good Work Plan and the approval of budgets to create the policing structure for that legislation as detailed by the Director for Labour Enforcement.
* Discussions on the possible amendments to The Health and Safety at Work Act to create a Maximum Level of Heat and to set in law the requirement for free-flowing fresh air within all UK commercial kitchens.
* Discussions on the possible amendments to the Human Medicines Act to allow UK Commercial kitchens to store Emergency Asthma Kits (similar to schools)
* Discussing on the revision of Food Premises Licensing to include provisions for the above amendments and employee wellbeing.
Our list is not exhaustive, there is indeed much we wish to discuss with our new Minister and we fully intend to have our “seat at the table” and make sure the Chefs of the UK are not ignored.
Employment abuse is systemic in UK kitchens and we need to hit the ground running and address the many issues that have been building up for so long, including the age-old practice of Chefs and their kitchens coming last on the priorities of new business who think they can make a fortune on the backs of their chefs without consideration and due attention to the law and their representatives.
In the future no Pub, Hotel, Restaurant, or food premises should ever be allowed to open until the requirements and provisions of Laws attaining to the safety and wellbeing of employees are met first.
The future of catering is here and with us right now and for long we have been last in the queue…now we will be first. Make no mistake, we fully intend to have our voices heard.
Scottish and International Masterchef Shona Sutherland talks about sexism in our industry and just how important it can be that male chefs nurture and support talent of both sexes.
Some reading this will be wondering just why we need to push this subject so hard, after all aren’t there supposed to be equality laws in place?
That’s true, there are, however much of that legislation is still governed and policed by men, and mostly men who have been brought up in a sexist environment which often effects their passive view attitude to women in kitchens.
I too, was brought up in this macho, male dominated atmosphere, although I was grateful that my main teachers in cookery were all women and I benefited from their wisdom and care. Those early years working with women taught me so much about the respect and value that I needed to show as I progressed in my career.
You would think that in the 21st century, the very last thing we should have to worry about is the safety and comfort of our female colleagues in UK kitchens, however the truth is that sexism and inequality is still a big issue in today's kitchens, and we need to continue the fight against it.
So many chefs have commented upon the lack of young chefs and the quality of their training, yet as an industry we still fail to realise just how unattractive the job is to many youngsters and especially to young women who still see the industry dominated by loudmouth macho chefs and they wonder” is this really the job for me?”
Unichef have known for many years that teaching “old dog's new tricks” is a long and arduous process, and therefore we know that if we are to eradicate sexism from the profession, we must educate our younger chefs from day one.
We also know that, in the short term, Litigation or even the threat of Litigation can be a powerful tool against the sexists. Fines are increasing and many employees are now aware of the seriousness of sexism and the damage it can do to their business.
The industry seriously needs to get its own house in order if we are to adequately provide a workforce fit for the21st Century. In 2021 we should not even be discussing this subject, but we are so far behind many professions that except women as equals and as colleagues and not sex objects.
We have taken our slogan # Not on the Menu from the USA yet again other countries have taken the initiative against sexism and #Not on the Menu is a hugely successful campaign which has succeeded in catapulting some of the USA’s top female chefs into prominence.
We need to take a strong lesson from their book and begin to look in the mirror and say to ourselves, “we must do better” and end sexism in British kitchens.
So, what’s NOT on the menu?
Imagine if you can, that you are a female chef and you wear your button or your t-shirt with pride, the slogan saying #Notonthemenu.
The answer is simple, so simple that it stops people right in their tracks and will forever change their view of how they treat you.
That answer is me. I’m not on the menu! nor is my body, my gender, or my sexuality!
“Yeah, right. That’s cool” comes the reply. It will only happen once, when they finally get the idea that you ARE an equal, you are a colleague, and yes you are a chef.
The idea started in America, and comes from years of female oppression in kitchens, and a final realisation that there must and will be changes; 2021 will become the focus of a concerted campaign by Unichef, The National Chefs Union to finally rid our own kitchens of this vile and systemic abuse of our female colleagues.
#Notonthemenu looks at the history and the reverence of women in British Cookery, their contribution, and the exciting and often inspirational contributions that they have made and will continue to make in kitchens across our country.
Our aim is to educate all chefs into a new and fresh culture that accepts people as they are, as professionals doing a professional job, and to help everyone understand that our kitchens are NOT bastions of a male preserve but are in fact “our office” our place of work, where we should all feel safe, secure and protected and where our genders should never come into question.“Our office” should be just like any other modern working environment, we should work by modern recognisable standards towards our colleagues.
Banter and fun, being the butt of sexual talk and jokes, hugging and “love in the kitchen” is all eighties tolerability that no longer belongs in the 21st Century.
As chefs we beg for the latest equipment, the best of facilities and stress to our bosses to get with it and use modern techniques, yet so many of our chefs are still in the last century when it comes to recognising the equality of women in kitchens and yet no one would ever treat their wives, girlfriends or mothers in that way.
We can’t only blame chefs either. Our industry is plagued with male dominated companies and a hugely male oriented media obsessed with the latest “Cool Chef” when there has not been any since Gary Rhodes. And yet TV cooking shows are STILL dominated by men! Is it any wonder then that our young chefs still grow up believing that men are the better chefs, if only through numbers?
The time for change is now, the time to look at how we really treat women in our kitchens and ask ourselves “can we do better”? Can we bring respect and equality back into our kitchen, not only for their sake but for ours too, as treating all people with respect makes us all better chefs.
If you’ve ever wondered just how someone manages to start a national movement from scratch, then here you are, our entire story, warts and all? We really kicked off in about 2013, just a few chefs who had been saying for many years that we needed a “Union” for chefs as all of the big Unions were simply not interested in us as a profession and that small kitchens in the middle of nowhere just couldn’t get any sort of representation.
For the last 3 years Unichef has been quietly working away at a subject that affects every chef in the UK.
It's something that most are not even aware of and some even question its existence, yet Heat Stress is now a major topic of discussion and is now being recognised as a serious workplace issue.
For too many years chefs had had to endure the heat and pressures that modern kitchens create believing that this was normal and that there was little answer to the problem, we just “suck it up “
To look at the causes we need to go back to when UK kitchens were not as they are now. A time when there was no Heated Passes, no undercounter fridge freezers in the kitchen and a 2-3% lower ambient climate then now.
The innovation of the Brands and Gastropubs, meant that kitchen design came last on the thoughts of designers whose prime concern was output and not the Thermal comfort of the employees
The pace of modern kitchens and the escalating cost of prime land means that in the last 30 years kitchens are 50% smaller than they were whilst turning out 100% more volume, requiring chefs too move as little as possible, by having everything at hand, often working in cramped conditions with masses of heat producing machinery.
We take it as normal, but the effects on the body and mind can be extreme and often profoundly serious.
Now organisations such as MIND, The Stroke Association and The Health and Safety Executive are supporting Unichef in their campaign to maximise a safe level of Temperature in UK kitchens.
Our campaign is gathering momentum and 2020 will see us push even further to make employers realise the dangers that extreme of heat can have on their workforce. Last year, Unichef Ambassador Gemma Page published her in-depth study of Heat Stress in Commercial Kitchens and you can read it now by clicking the link button below; note, this is a PDF file, and you will need a PDF file reader to access it.
Heat Stress Dissertation
Fantastic wages, constant praise, your own menus and an incredible team to support you, what more could any chef want?
Yet the dream of many chefs awaits anyone who works for Europe’s premier Fine Dining website.
La Belle Assiette’s phenomenal rise to the top is founded on the simples principals of making sure everyone involved for each event has an amazing time..and that includes the chef!
LBA ( as it's known to all ) takes enormous pride in the success of their chefs and will do anything that is needed to secure the success of your client’s special night.
Each chef decides their own menu and costings based on LBA’s price ranges. You get to decide how much you want to work by using your own unique calendar portal, you even get to decide what area’s you want to cover and you can decide on the maximum number of guest you wish to cook for. Examples below:
On the evening of the event, you are the star performer, raising your game to secure the highest of accolades from your guests ( and some great tips also ! ) and hopefully that all-important rave review, which is the crowning glory of a job well done.
Being an LBA chef is the ultimate in designer cookery. Total freedom in what you cook and how you work, and an amazing team to support you all the way, the only rule is just making sure your guests have a truly wonderful night to remember.
Why not click into the link and call La Belle Assiette today, you won’t be sorry, I promise… bon appetite
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