“Walking Out” of the job is treated as so normal for chefs that we barely even think about it, but in reality it is a very rare thing in other professions, yet the current economic crisis has led now into thinking that “walking out” over what is usually a simple matter maybe not such a good idea,or even acceptable in a modern working kitchen?
Doctors don’t walk out, neither do Firemen or Nurses, Bricklayers or Plumbers and when did you ever hear of a Gardener walking out because things weren’t right for him, its all VERY strange for sure.
Yet even I must put my hand up, being notorious for doing so in my younger days.
But what gives us the right to do so? Why should we be one of the very few (if only) working trades in which to treat our Employers and colleagues in such a way. Are we REALLY that good that if things are not right for us, we simply down tools and walk, often in the middle of a shift or working day?
So why do we do it. Often its seems that it may be a matter of “professional pride”. Very often its the intense pressure, the heat and the self-drive in chefs seeking perfection that is often the cause of walk outs. Sometimes it is a standards issue, where the establishment does not match up to the chef’s ideals and the high standards we set ourselves, or sometimes it may be a personality issue between chefs, the closeness of working in such a confined space.
Many of us have faced situations in kitchens where the best is expected of us but the support from those above us is lacking.They ask the inpossible,they want their "drive" to be replicated yet they fail to understand the often poor facilitys we have and the many obsticles and hurdles in our way.
They want us to be "team players" but fail in their leadership and expect the impossible,relying on our "Badge of Honour", our unwriiten code that says we will achive,despite those obsticles.Certainly the quality of modern "management" must be questioned as never before?
Sadly we are often "managed" by people who fail to do just that?.Managers who's only aim in life is their budgets and the endless pursuit of "tick boxing".
However, we must also examine ourselves (me included) at a time where our industry is facing such massive changes and realise that walking out is not the way things should be, and in fact walking out is really very “old school” and we need to start believing in the better way forward, but what exactly is that?
Certainly the “New School” could well be the Government’s flagship review of working practices called The Good Work Plan. This plan encourages Employers to set up and maintain independent “Workforce Forums” where Employees will feel empowered to discuss issues at work that affect them and so that they can be dealt with quickly, resulting in a more inspired and content workforce.To play a part in the business and feel a part of that success.
"New School" is also being part of a union such as Unichef,where support is available from other chefs who have been in those situations and understand the pressures and reasons.Advice and support is at hand as never before.
Five months ago,I too may have quit,five months ago I would have supported chefs who walk out over standards and values,but that was then,and this is now.Our curent economic climate denies us that luxury of being able to walk out of one job and into another,quickly and with confidence.Five months ago chefs were at a premium,recruitment was difficult,time comsuming and exspensive,COVID has changed all of that.
Covid has returned our industry back to the 80's with chefs now plentiful and willing to accept lower wages and standards,at least for the time being.
Perhaps removing the very need to walk out of the job could well be the answer.As chefs we should all seek to inprove our own working enviroments,make them more safe and secure and work towards a system of value,but in the meanwhile, we all need to think twice before we decide to put ourselves and our families on the dole because we haven't got the right frying pan and continue to seek the alternatives?