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  • Brian

    The Drugs Don't Work


    For too many years now our Industry has been plagued by the crazy notion that some sort of recreational drug or liquid crutch will get chefs “through the day” and that they “need”  those items in place to be the chef that they are or want to become ??

    Yet repeatedly our Union sees the massive result in the scrapheap of chefs who thought that drugs, alcohol and even Caffeine drinks were the answer to their pressures and workload.

    There are so many that contact us who “used” to be a chef, with the same story. We even encounter Ex-offenders who once again tell us how the pressures of the job, drove them to substance mis-use and then into crime, one-minute working on their dream, the next involved in a nightmare.

    All aspire to be great chefs, all look to their hero’s, the classic legends who crafted our profession, Escoffier, Bocuse, Mossiman, Blanc etc, we all have our favourites. But few chefs stop to question just HOW these great chefs got through their days of stress, without a joint to calm them down or twenty cans of Red Bull for them to do their job??

    Maybe they can’t understand that the greatest of chefs just don’t need stimulants, that the love of their craft, their own drive and commitment and the “natural high” they get from being in one of the greatest professions in the world is all they need to get them “through the day “?

    It’s all so easy to criticise, I know that, but as a chef who has worked for the last 46 years and still puts in 70 hours with more pressures and stress then you can ever imagine, without anything thing more than uplifting than a cup of tea of tea, I often wonder just why such chefs need to be in our industry at all ?

    If they really need such artificial props to survive the rigours of the day, are they really the chefs we need in this industry, shouldn’t they just get out of it??

    Easy to say but misuse is now so rife that it must now be considered a serious threat to safety and a massive disincentive to many youngers wanting a career as a chef.

    The foolish belief that you need drugs to be a good chef, or that you need drugs in your kitchen to make it “groove” is just the biggest load of hype this industry has ever seen and time we all “called out” drug taking in kitchens, those that use them, those that sell them and also those that turn a blind eye.

    Of course, as an industry we need to support those who truly need it,and Unichef will always stand by those with MHI who feel drugs like Cannabis ease their situation, but the mass acceptance that drug taking at work is "normal" needs to change. If someone was drunk on duty, its gross misconduct, and an instant dismissal, but someone having a joint or a line at work is somehow more acceptable ?

    In Post Pandemic Britain, Drug Free Kitchens must now be the norm.Perhaps drug testing at work should become more standard practice than it is at present and perhaps this is our chance to rid kitchens of substance mis-use and return our kitchens into a safe and healthy workplace environment.


    This guidance is intended to assist workplace reps in developing policies to deal with alcohol and drug problems in the workplace.


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    A very good article. Identifies a lot a points and does make you think how some of the chefs of old got through their working day whilst achieving some great things along the way. 

    A positive culture change is needed from the top down as the younger generation will look up to the older. With absolute no-nonsense approach to substance abuse and alcohol consumption on the job. 

    Over my years in senior positions I have brought bottled water and kept it in the walk in for anyone to take which the team would over waiting for the bar to pour them a coke or opening a high caffeine energy drink. 

    I fully agree on testing, although the costs may be a little too much on the smaller operators. But with alcohol, a simple policy of not drinking at the workplace (even after the shift) will help as it's one small deterrent in lowering the consumption and removing the need for it. (That being said, I've always employed the end of week reward with any of my teams. At the end of shift on Sunday, I buy a round of drinks and thank everyone for their hard work through the week)



    My 2 pence: If you are currently drinking every night or consuming drugs to function normally my challenge to you is to try and go 1 day/night a week without consuming it and then writing or taking mental notes of how you feel the day after. If you drink regularly (4-5 nights a week) try and take one week out every couple of months and see how your workload improves. 


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