Unichef is the UK’s National Union for chefs. We are Britains very first Community Union and we are dedicated to protecting the rights of chefs, whilst working together with the wider community in order to make our industry a better and safer environment for all.
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Since we began in 2015,Unichef has done more to raise the awareness of Mental Health Issues in Catering than any other Union.
At first even we were not truly aware of how deep and widespread the issues were. We learned “on the hoof” ignorant of much of the pain and suffering our friends and colleagues were going through.
Then things changed dramatically when we began our Facebook Page and then chefs from all over the country began to tell us their stories.
Reminder about cooking pâté safely
There is no doubt that it’s a classic starter and firm festive favourite, but over the past five years there have been 30 food poisoning outbreaks linked to chicken liver pâté*. We know that many recipes, including some by leading chefs, advocate short cooking times so livers are served rare, and estimates suggest half of livers served commercially in the UK fail to reach 70°C during cooking. This can result in campylobacter survival rates of 48%–98%.** We also know, via the 2015 ‘Restaurant Cooking Trends and Increased Risk for Campylobacter Infection’ study, that many chefs prefer to serve livers substantially more rare than the public would like when eating out**.
Defining the difference?
Whilst it is widely recognised that Commercial kitchens require a degree of Management and overall supervision, where that line is crossed and staff become abused has been argued recently.
Kitchens after all can be very dangerous environments, with often dangerous equipment and service areas and someone needs to be a leader and show overall control.
Catering is a strange and unique profession in the fact that many Head Chefs aren’t qualified or trained in running a kitchen and that many of the people skills that they need are often learned “on the hoof” and often after mistakes have been made.
Many Head chefs have little time for training their own staff, let alone receive much training themselves and are often promoted by just being in the right place at the right time or are promoted purely on their culinary skills and not their ability to run and control a business.
Few realise that dealing with people of various distinctions, ages sexes, religions and cultures can be hugely daunting and complex.
So it is that under this type of untrained semi managerial skill base that sometimes “Tribal Kitchens” evolve where Head Chefs are not the leader people want them to be but insist on still being “one of the crew”
Respect dissolves, the line between leader and friend becomes blurred and harmful and “Tribal Kitchens” evolve into environments for abuse and harm. Loud music, shouting, swearing and “playground” humour all mix into this breeding ground for abuse.
The abuser feels no threat or shame as he/she is simply one of the team and the team will support and encourage that abuse. The Team become a pack, often agreeing and applauding that abuse, vindicating that abuser, and so the vicious circle continues.
The abuser is no longer in control, but uses bullying as a form of control. Their own self-esteem and confidence is low and so seek control in boastful gestures and abusive manners.
2020 will see Unichef moving into schools and colleges to educate chefs on the important issues concerning Chef Wellbeing.
But what exactly is Chef Wellbeing?
Unichef is a Union for the 21st century, our opinions and thoughts exceed those of our peers and education of our profession is a main aim of all we do. Chefs no longer have to “suck it up “ and work in poor surroundings with employers that care little for them, and Chef Wellbeing is a part of that new vision.
Chef wellbeing is the vision of getting your mind “right for the job” of giving chefs confidence in themselves to be happier and more confident in their work and to encourage employers to produce a safe and comfortable environment in which their chefs can flourish.
Chef wellbeing is about teaching chefs old and new about their responsibilities to their fellow chefs and making them realise their obligations they have to their colleagues, employers and customers
In 2019,many chefs contacted our Facebook page concerned at the lack of skills and knowledge of the youngsters coming into the profession and we have listened carefully to what has been said.
So, 2020 will see Unichef involve itself more and more into the sectors where we feel we can make that impact and where we feel we can learn more in order to pass that knowledge on.
In all, Chef Wellbeing is about creating a new culture, where chefs feel comfortable in what they do, are happy and have the inspiration to succeed in this amazing industry.
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