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  3. Brian

    No Minister!!

    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.
  4. One of the biggest issues we have in modern catering is what to do when conflict occurs within the pressures of a busy kitchen. These issues are very often the result of either the internal “self-drive” of the chef or chefs involved and, or the external pressures of time, standards and fatigue, and very often all these combine to create that “perfect storm”, Sadly, these days many young and inexperienced managers who have not proceeded through the ranks of Hospitality do not know how to deflect these situations in order to carry on with the day’s work and inevitably end up losing a chef, either for that day or even permanently. Without doubt the answer lies within the hands of the unit manager or Head Chef to be experienced and strong to be able to control and motivate their employees. Recruitment and selection play such a big part also. Many Head chefs and managers concentrate on the practical side of an applicant but few seek to know the inner person they are interviewing. Few ask for their views on bullying and discrimination or their attitudes to women in kitchens, yet much of the future conflict can be avoided by more careful selection of candidates. If we focus more on the merits of the person and not solely on their cooking ability then we should be able to see the potential for conflict at that stage. Personal references and careful scrutiny of candidates at this stage avoid the potential for conflict. Kitchen conflicts are often about personalities, with experience and careful man management these occasions need be rare.As new Chefs are so often interviewed by the Head Chef or Manager, they are rarely introduced to the team or brigade for their reactions, yet the team itself should have a major say in who they bring into their workplace environment, should they not? This is a “people” business, yet our ability at times to understand and develop our senses about the people who we employ and work with can be quite shocking. When conflict occurs, we should question ourselves in asking could we, as Managers, chefs and colleagues have done more to avoid that incident, were we as much to blame?. The National Chefs Union works tirelessly with many employers to educate our colleagues that the great majority of conflicts are solvable and that they often move forward through development and motivational leadership. We must understand that nobody wishes these conflicts to occur and that there is normally a reason behind such incidents, we just need the will and experience to seek those reasons and prevent them from happening in the first place.
  5. 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. Everyone is puzzled as to how and why this would be in a modern working environment but to analyse the matter one must appreciate the demographics of the workforce and the cultural changes that had enabled these vile practices to exist and thrive. Professor Wendy Bloisi’s ground-breaking research into the background of bullying in commercial kitchens has acted as our Union’s bible for many years. In her thesis she explains that social and economic factors bear heavily on the mainly un- academic platform of hospitality employees and namely chefs in kitchens who are mostly kids off the street who have a talent to cook but little else. Chefs are by and large are often seen as unskilled and problematic. https://www.research.manchester.ac.uk/portal/files/54526643/FULL_TEXT.PDF Those factors are born out when Chefs then bring their cultural ideologies and traits into an un-policed workplace where they are “safe” to bully and intimidate within their own peer group, without fear of retaliation, discipline or indeed prosecution. If we then subscribe to the now widely held social belief that “abuse breeds abuse” whether it be in the home, marriage or school, then also that must apply to the workplace also, and some kitchens in particular, which can be no more than a “playground” for bully’s. All of this has been ingrained into our workplace over the last 10-15 years by the “glorification” of kitchen abuse by chefs such as Gordon Ramsey and programs such as Hell’s Kitchen and the F Word. Ramsey himself came from an abusive background and strict culinary teaching and so that has perpetuated into his work. Those who idolise him copy his actions and believe that to be correct, normal and even "cool" and so it goes on, from generation to generation. Chef Ramsey may well be a reformed character but the damage has been done and will last for many years to come. This “gladiatorial” display of bullying, played out in front of millions, is now the main factor in just why “bullying and harassment has become systemic within UK kitchens. Many factors play there part in people who abuse such as lack of confidence, and self-esteem bit also those who bully and intimidate may have autistic traits and are often acting out a defense mechanism which is their way of self-protection. Both Chefs, and the wider public have now accepted this as how kitchens are ran and is without doubt the disease that has crept up upon us and has led to the now “normalisation” of abuse and harassment that we see today. Change can only be affected by constant education of our peers, our employers, the media, and most importantly, our students coming into the industry. Abuse is a plague within our sector that has to be stamped out by all who work within it. We are all part of a precious and special profession, a profession that cares for our clients but fails to care for those that work within it. We can do better and we must do better. We must learn from the past mistakes of others and make a conscious decision that as “professionals” we are sometimes not as professional as we should be and look to other professions that show us a better example of how to treat our colleagues.
  6. I will be in Colwyn bay on the 2nd August so would be nice to know members in wales. 

  7. Brian

    A right (Eton) Mess

    With our industry now ready (almost) to return to some sort of reasonable normality we are now seeing the pent-up frustration of both Employers and Employees and issues raising to the surface. The pressures on Employers are staggering that’s for sure. many have huge debts and they continue to rise and now they are face with a massive shortage of good chefs and are having to shift that pressure back onto the small workforce that they have just to survive the rest of the year and get back some of what they have lost. Needless to say, this is causing huge resentment to staff, who feel that they are being made to pay for what has happened over the last year or so but are they right to feel that way? Do Employers also have a right to feel that they now should expect employees to shoulder the heavy burdens they have an “take one for the team “, soak up the pressure, work extra shifts and extra days, all for the good of the business and for the security of their job? It's certainly a moral dilemma that none of us have ever faced before. Is it right to “guilt trip” employees, is it right to add even more pressure than they already have or is it the Employers sole responsibility to shoulder all the issues and run their business effectively from day one? Do employees have a moral obligation to support their employers by providing free labour? At Unichef, we HAVE to see both sides of the coin. We have members who are owed thousands of pounds from employers who have no money. We have even heard of Employers keeping tips so that they can pay bills, and chefs having to clean toilets because they have no cleaner and many other sad and shocking stories. Things are not back to normal and will not be for along time. Industry experts predict this to last in Hospitality indefinitely as few realise that we have also lost a million oversees workers, many of whom were working in our sector. Remember nothing like this has ever happened before and we are watching carefully as they situation develops and hoping that some relief is in sight for both sides but we are not optimistic. We warned in March 2020 that this would happen, it was sadly all inevitable and possible much worse to come as chefs now feel even more that this is “not the job for them”. Many have returned excited, but so many more have returned frightened and disillusioned and are already looking to get out. An industry cannot simply lose that volume of workforce and not be severely affected and If, as many believe, they trade was bad before the crisis, then it’s even worse now that’s for sure, it’s in a mess and will be for a long, long time
  8. 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 being a chef, the algorithm’s set by Linkedin give me a huge selection, hundreds if not thousands of other chefs, and so you begin to connect with those you wish in your network. I tend to pick professionals who are clearly in the UK,and who I can then share and spread the word about our amazing Union.After picking about 20-30 I suddenly realised the huge lack of Women chefs and and chefs of colour, especially in any form of seniority? Sure there were a couple but most of the women were in other forms of the sector, Admin, Management HR etc and almost none Black or Asian female chefs? This really shocked me. Is the algorithm set to my past acceptance or is it geared up to my profile of being a male white chef? both of course would be wrong. Or could it be that Women and Black/Asian chefs don’t use Linkedin or even the reality that those demographic groups are simply not being represented on Social media because of the lack of those groups actually not being in our industry in sufficient numbers. This is certainly something we really ought to be considered more if indeed our industry is to recover from the pandemic and our employers seek to re-establish their business’s. Shockingly, almost all of the UK’s Contract Caterers are white male driven. Most of their group Executive Chefs, Development Chefs, Area Executive Chefs and Head Chefs are nearly exclusively white males? So too the numerous Chefs Associations and Craft oriented bodies that supposedly serve as ambassadors and leaders of our profession, promoting our culinary arts, again, mostly male, white dominated, and what about our college Lecturers, the teachers of our new young chefs, again the argument applies.Even in recruitment and on television the White Male Chef reigns supreme. Is the lack of diversity the reason why we still have so many problems in our industry? Is the fact that it is still white male driven the very reason that recruitment was at an all-time low before January 2020. Almost every employer of every description was finding it increasingly difficult to find the right chefs. Temporary Recruitment constantly relied upon and the situation was becoming so acute that it even began to affect the higher levels of our profession, including Michelin starred establishments.Whilst the” White Male Club” still exists in professional cookery, how can we ever hope to move forward? So, as we hopefully progress towards the re-opening of our business’s isn’t it time to reflect upon just how diverse we should all be in our approach to recruitment and begin to embrace the fact that diversity can and does bring a whole new set of dynamics to our profession and our business, and that the next time we do recruit then we begin to find those women, and BAME chefs that can bring that extra “special ingredient” to our brigades.
  9. 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.
  10. 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. Firstly, I want to stress that while dominance, bullying, harassment, sexism, intimidation and abuse I know is not confined to being directed only at women by men and can affect and be instigated by all demographic groups, since I am a chef and a female, I speak from this perspective. We can’t deny that it is an issue that still blights workplace mental and physical health, motivation, performance, passion, empowerment, happiness, and satisfaction. Secondly, I am keen to make aware that having been in the industry for my working life, that I am thankful to have worked with and been taught by many inspirational, respectful, humble, equality fighting and talented chefs who are male. We’d be in denial if we didn’t confront the fact that women in some cases are still victims of misogyny. While recognition and progress has been made over the years, there is still an engrained egotism, arrogance, domination, narcissism apparent and it is projects like these that lead the way in raising awareness. Education and leading by example are key. In an ideal world we can think of ourselves all as ‘chefs’ without a mention of gender, for me that is how I would have identified, but over time I have come to realise that it must be of huge disservice to women in the industry who have suffered atrocities at the hands of male colleagues. If we don’t differentiate in gender (in certain circumstances of discussion), then I’m not sure how the issues mentioned above that exist can be confronted or transformed in the future. I have had the joy of working in professional kitchens where, alongside men, women were an integral part of the operation, bringing their creativity, humour, understanding, strength, passion, leadership, and determination with them. How beneficial would it be to be to empower these qualities in the workplace, or is this exactly what a superiority mentality would try to suppress? I’d like to thank all those supportive, dynamic, creative, inspirational, and talented women I’ve encountered on my chef journey in all areas of the catering industry Thanks, Unichef for inviting me and other chefs to take part in the ‘Not on the Menu’ project. You can discover more about Shona and the fabulous work she does at Taystful, her chocolate emporium in Perthshire. Chocolaterie, Patisserie, Wedding Cakes, Masterclasses, Workshops. Perthshire Scotland. WWW.TAYSTFUL.CO.UK Taystful creates luxury handmade chocolates, stunning cakes and patisserie, and holds masterclasses, courses and workshops at Taystful and venues further afield. Shona has also created a survey so that female chefs can have thier say on sexism in the industry Women in Catering Survey - Sexism, Equality, Male Dominance WWW.SURVEYMONKEY.CO.UK Web survey powered by SurveyMonkey.com. Create your own online survey now with SurveyMonkey's expert certified FREE templates.
  11. 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.
  12. Hospitality Action was established in 1837 and has since offered vital assistance to all who work, or have worked within hospitality in the UK and are the largest UK Hospitality Charity. They are there for the chefs, waiters, housekeepers and managers. They are there for the concierges, receptionists and kitchen porters. And they are there for every sommelier, bartender, catering assistant and cook across the UK. Whether you work in hotels, restaurants, pubs, bars or cafes, schools, hospitals or event venues, They are there to give you the help, advice and support you need whenever times get tough. Click Here To Visit Website
  13. Time to Change is a growing social movement working to change the way we all think and act about mental health problems. We've already reached millions of people and begun to improve attitudes and behaviour. In 2018 Unichef took the Pledge to support TTC and became the first Union in the UK to actively support Mental Health in the work place. Read all about the way TTC is changing the way we all thing about MHI Click Here To Visit Website
  14. Shout is a 24/7 UK crisis text service available for times when people feel they need immediate support. By texting ‘SHOUT’ to ‘85258’ a Texter will be put in touch with a trained Crisis Volunteer (CV) who will chat to them using trained techniques via text. The service is designed to help individuals to think more clearly and to take their next steps to feeling better. Shout was publicly launched in May 2019, after a year long pilot phase. It is based on the successful US model Crisis Text Line. Shout is part of Mental Health innovations (MHI), which was founded in November 2017. MHI was set up following the success of The Royal Foundation’s ‘Heads Together’ campaign, which identified how utilising digital platforms and tools has huge potential to offer support services to individuals struggling with their mental health. Click Here To Visit Website
  15. Brian


    MIND are the foremost Mental Health Charity in Britain.They provide free support and care for thousands of people experiencing all forms of Mental Health. They campaign to improve services,raise awareness and promote understanding.For more than 70 years MIND have been committed to making sure that everyone experiencing MHI has the support and care they need. Now Mind has teamed up with National Chefs Union in supporting chefs across the UK.You can find out all about MIND and the fantastic work the do... Click Here To Visit Website
  16. How would you like your lifestyle to look? Now could be your time to think about it. During the days I was working every hour in the day all I could think about was what I could do if only I had more time. I would read novels, go out to dinner with my friends, go for a pint with a mate, start cycling etc etc etc. Ring any bells? So, now we are in strange times and you have been handed on a plate that time you craved, but… you have huge restrictions as to how you can use it?! For example, looking back at my list, the novels are all I could really start doing. However, this time could be a wonderful time to reflect, an exciting time to get to grips with what is important to you. I’ve already talked about work/life balance. It should be a given, but it is still something we must fight for. This time gives you the time to think about… How would a social life look for you? The things you dream of when you’re in the middle of service. Dinner with friends? Time and energy to ride a bike? What makes you feel good? What you want to fight for? This reflection is important, I think. I burnt out from such a job that gave me no balance about 7 years ago. I didn’t think about what was happening and I suffered a lot of anxiety from having all this extra time and no idea what to do with it. In essence, I craved going back to that life. That’s not balance. But it takes work to make such a huge lifestyle change. Those friends you used to hang out with on a Friday night have no doubt moved on. You wouldn’t fall straight back in. But over time I have found what a life balance is for me. It's taken to this day. I enjoy slowing down. I enjoy running, I enjoy practicing and studying yoga. I enjoy cooking, eating, and drinking with loved ones. Why you want to fight for it? This is so important and for you needs to come before what. For me I knew that a life so far out of balance was simply unsustainable. I had myself in my 40’s or 50’s doing the same thing. I also knew there had to be more to life. I knew I needed change. For you it could be any number of reasons. Your family? Your mental and physical health? How you are going to fight for it? Here’ s the big one. It is going take some serious courage to see these changes. As I said above, I struggled, I really struggled. Firstly. The first step is to commit to the change. Mean it. Secondly. What do you need from your work life to make this happen? Can your current job accommodate your dreams? Can you speak with managers or whoever is going to make this happen? Thirdly. You’ve done it. You’ve made the change. Be ready to know that it's not going to be as easy as you thought. More space means more time to think. It's so important to take things slowly, be non-judgemental or yourself. As ever, I don’t have the answers for you. I do however have a lot of experience of thinking about these questions. I still am. I have never found the balance of having a healthy social life. So, we are all in this together. Thinking and improving our lives together. Namaste.
  17. The topic of nutrition, the process of providing or obtaining the food necessary for growth, is a contentious one but the old mantra of 'you are what you eat' does still hold some wisdom. Our food nourishes our body and brain, so the quality and quantity of what we eat matters. Needless to say, everyone's diet has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, with food shortages and delivery delays, an over-reliance on take-aways, and boredom eating habits setting in. What we eat directly affects the bacteria in our gut, and our gut relays signals to our brain. This directly affects our hormones, energy levels, sleep cycle, and mood. In short, a poor diet can leave you feeling sluggish, suffering disjointed sleep, and low in mood. Food gives us our energy, in the form of calories, but not all calories are created equal. The source of the calories you eat arguably matters more than the number of calories you eat. Both these plates would give you 200 calories, but fibre, minerals, and vitamins are typically more plentiful in natural, unprocessed foods like vegetables and fruits. It's also important to eat a balanced selection of foods so that you ingest all the vitamins and minerals necessary for healthy development. Figure 1: Doritos (41 grams) vs Apples (385 grams), source: What calories look like in different foods WWW.ZMESCIENCE.COM Food calories come in different shapes and sizes. Sleep is essential for restoring and repairing the brain (among other things!) and what we eat directly affects the quality and amount of sleep we get. We all know that drinking substantial amounts of caffeine keeps us up late, but what a lot of people don't appreciate is the negative impact this has on our hormones and sleep cycle. Chefs and shift workers are particularly vulnerable here because, caffeine drinks aside, they grow accustomed to being awake when others are asleep because of their working patterns. Studies show that night-workers do not sleep as deep, or as long, compared to their day-shift counterparts, and this can have a significant impact on health in the long term. Exposing yourself to natural light in the day helps restore your biological clock (and produce Vit D – essential for building healthy bones and muscles), as does shutting out as much light as possible at bedtime. Stay away from electrical devices, like your mobile phone, for at least half an hour before going to bed. This will encourage the production of the hormone which makes you want to go to sleep. So, in this never-ending cycle, our diet affects our energy levels, our energy levels affect our sleep, our sleep affects our mood, and our mood affects our diet choices, and so the cycle continues. We need to pay attention to every part of this cycle to maintain good physical and mental health, but diet is the best place to start. So, let's all make a conscious effort to be mindful of what we eat; to look after our body and brain as best we can, throughout this challenging time.
  18. How is your balance? April 2020. What a time to write about Work/Life balance. The kitchens are closed. We are at home. We are out of balance. Balance to me is the most important concept to consider when trying to improve wellbeing. It's human nature to require balance. Traditionally bad balance. Before these unprecedented times we all at one time or another experienced a lifestyle out of balance the other way. Not all of us, I have read remarkable stories about kitchens that are finding ways to find better work/life balance, but it is still the case across the world that chefs are being asked to work long, inconsistent hours. One aspect of the problem is the expectation of the hospitality industry. Traditionally work/life balanced hasn’t been managed well and at the heart of the aims of the chefs union are to tackle these issues varying from split shifts, long/anti-social hours, not having any fixed hours or being given no notice to make any plans. Stick with us to find out more. This will change. Perhaps as soon as when we go back to work. We will fight for these rights. I want you to have a think about what your work/life balance would look like If you were in full control of it. Like you should be. I am a big believer in taking control of our own wellbeing. During the time of my career when I had the worst work/life balance I made it worse by having a couple of pints at the end of each shift. I started to run. A lot. For me I found it gave me something that was away from work and I could easily fit it around the anti-social hours I had. On a simple level I started taking time for myself and sat in cafe’s and drank coffee. It was also a cue to me to move on. I did. I found a better work/life balance. The Benefits to business’ that looks after this balance. high morale leading to increased productivity. less fatigue related mistakes. being a responsible employer will attract the best chefs. staff retention becomes easier. How could work/life balance look like? No Chef should have to miss weddings and family occasions simply because they are a chef. Having the options to do things in your life that isn’t work. Evening and weekend time off to spend with friends and family that aren’t in the hospitality industry. Consistent and advanced notice for time off. To build a routine and make plans. As ever, I simply hope this gives you something to think about. Talk to us if you are looking to improve your work/life balance. We are here for you.
  19. Brian of The National Chefs Union asked me to talk about the ongoing risk of depression in the kitchen. I drafted articles about the state of the industry and how it compares to what I wrote about mental health in the kitchen in 2017 but then realised that what was going on in my own head was very different. The uncertainty of the future. It made me wonder if this is what is going through anyone else’s mind? There is a real uncertainly in our future and that’s what I want to talk about. How do we manage that in term of our mental health? In the present we can only be our best selves, right? That’s forever the case. Once we learn our limitations then we take control of a situation. Do everything we can to take control of what is in our control. The rest will just happen. Be open with our employers. Do our best. I understand that. But the future is something none of us can foresee. The future has always been something that causes me huge amounts of anxiety. Not necessarily worrying about what is coming because I know I can’t control that but worrying about what I should be doing today to give myself the best chance in the future. Does anybody else suffer this anxiety? It can cause me to freeze. Panic. Have all these pages and pages of to-do lists all of which could be affecting the path I’m on and my chances of future happiness! I feel like some days I am on top of this anxiety. I can do one thing on my to-do list that will take me towards my goals and is true to me. But it only works to an extent. How does anybody else deal with this anxiety? Who doesn’t suffer this anxiety and how and why don’t you?
  20. What the hell does that mean? How do I write this inclusively of all? I’m not sure I can. I’m writing it as me. An approaching Middle-Aged man who has been a chef and now a yoga teacher. I’ve never been overly physically strong; I’ve suffered mental health issues and I’ve run a marathon and I love a nice hot bubble bath. Am I manly? Am a masculine? I’ve had days when be felt really unmanly, girly, feminine, to then voice that to someone and hear them respond with “but I see you as very manly”, not “it’s ok to not be manly you know” which was what I expected. Why does it even matter? Well, it shouldn’t but it does seem to be a bother to me. If you tell yourself something doesn’t matter but clearly it is bothering you, it can only make things worse. So clearly it does matter to me. Was I brought up in a time where being tough and being strong is very important? Sure. I’ve felt weak at various points of my life so it’s only natural that it would affect me. Being aware of the thought process calms me down massively. At times that connection is what I need to take control of it and work my head around it. Where does this fit into the well-being of chefs? Well, it’s simple, there's a huge amount of pressure of chefs to be strong. Even today in a kitchen I would find it almost impossible to express any weakness. The pressure that puts on you Isn’t healthy. It simply can’t be. During our new COVID-19 normal I’m reading increased stories of chefs having to work harder, longer and under more pressure. It’s a pressure cooker in the mind. Is standing up to not being ok manly or not? Being manly is having the strength to talk about how things aren’t ok. That you don’t feel ok. I’m sure of it. Just about. I still need to tell myself sometimes. Stay safe everyone Steve.
  21. Living with those thoughts.... I, like many others, have truly little to be unhappy about. I am truly fortunate and lucky to have an amazing group of supportive family and friends, I know many don't, and this only adds to my feeling of helplessness and despair. My anger is sometimes uncontrollable, I lose control and so far fortunately for me, I have an amazing wife who keeps me in check. For how long I don't know, what I do know is it can't continue, I feel like a dog who should be put out of its misery, it would be the kindest thing to do. Being honest like this is somewhat of a relief but also compounds my depression even more. I have two beautiful, amazing, and wonderful children who I would lay down my life for, but again, some days that annoys me because, some days, my life has little value to me, and they deserve better. Reading this you may have already judged me, and that's ok, I judge myself too, which is part of the problem. We live in a society that breeds competition, where there are winners and losers, achievers, and non-achievers, and those of us who hold ourselves to standards we will never achieve and therefore will never fit these labels. Chefs fit the latter, always striving for perfection, but honestly, do we ever really achieve it? If we reach perfection, is it then a job worth pursuing? Is it worthwhile? For the betterment of oneself, these questions are Rhetorical. I hope I never reach perfection because that's the day I stop discovering and learning. However, coming to terms with this, is another issue, it's another way of looking at yourself in a negative light. Low self-esteem, plays the biggest part in depression for most, not knowing your true worth is difficult to comprehend, when especially sometimes feeling like just a number is a common occurrence, especially in this industry. I feel there is a lack of building people up, through fear of competition within the ranks, to admit sometimes someone is simply better and embracing them, without taking it to heart. I live with multiple, long term conditions, which leave me crippled for weeks on end, and in pain that is so distracting, I just want it to end. My knowledge and collection of painkillers would rival most hospital doctors, and I now have severe secondary conditions, because of them. I have tried them all, and I can assure you the only way is up, and not just in the high sense. I started with over-the-counter painkillers self-prescribed, then the doctor moved me on to opiates, and now have the displeasure of oral morphine for an hour's relief. It is not constant, but I have monthly flare-ups, sometimes weekly so I'm constantly waiting for the next crippling attack, sometimes the knowledge of just knowing it's coming back, makes me ask if it's worth it. Some may say that's weak-minded, and I would agree on first thoughts, I'm disappointed constantly in myself for asking the question in the first place, but I would ask what would you do in my situation? I'm open to ideas, as I'm at the point I want them amputated because I would be better off without them. How do you explain this to people who can't comprehend that level of pain? It's hard, but I'd rather live through one more epic pain event in my life, than a life of constant not knowing when the next attack will come. I am young enough I could adapt to my new legs and the lifestyle changes that come with it, but for many, this is too drastic and not an option in the UK. Health and mental wellbeing go hand in hand. If I were healthy, not constantly drugged up and not worrying about the next potential flare-up, I wouldn't be depressed, therefore I wouldn't need medication either, so for me it's a downwards spiral all stemming from my physical health. I got lazy and I put on weight, my diet was terrible, and I was always far too tired for exercise. I didn't help myself at all. I recently found my birth mother and now have knowledge of my family history. All those years I had beaten myself up about my health issues being of my own doing, I now know are genetic, predetermined, and not all down to me. Funny, for some reason I feel relief in knowing this. Many of you by now have formed an image of who I am, some would say, the typical chef, anger issues, mental health issues, physical health issues, poor diet, drugs, and generally pissed off. I wouldn't blame you. However, i am more than this, I am Son, a husband to an incredible wife, a father to two amazing children, a friend to those in need. What we portray daily in life to those around us, might not be who we are in the depths of the night! We may seem strong but can cry ourselves to sleep, we may seem like a leader, but really all we want to do is run and hide, we may seem angry but all we want is to be understood. These pressures are what breaks us. These unobtainable macho bullshit ideals of perfection, which are impossible to reach, as the bar is always moving. How can we switch off to this mentality when it is us who put these pressures on ourselves? Inevitably we set ourselves up to fail, and many fall into the depths of addiction, to escape the ever-growing picture before them. Given the current situation, time off, and fear and worry of financial issues, I can imagine it's a hundred times worse right now. The constant numbing effects of my prescribed medication is what keeps me away from the illegal ones, so I can be thankful for that. Talking to people helps, but much easier said than done. How do you explain to someone who has never felt or experienced the lowest points in life, that sometimes giving up seems the easiest choice? Well, the answer is you don't. There are people like me who understand, that are willing to hold out a hand to help, even if it is just to chat. There are like-minded people, who feel just the same in one way or another, and collectively we should be helping each other. Put the competition aside and ask your fellow chefs how they are, how they really are? Let them know they can lean on you if they need to, let them know you hope today is a good day. Acknowledge them and let them feel more than just a number, you never know when you will need the same in return. If someone is hurting, pick up the slack for them, help them, you never know when you will experience what they are experiencing. You may never know how brave they were being, just to be there to support you, you may never know the pain barriers they have been through just so you can have your garnish for a Friday night, you may never know how much they hate themselves for overcooking that one steak. Let them know at the end of the day, they are more important than the diner sitting in front of them. Small kindnesses go a long way, and for some they mean everything. In these uncertain times, I find myself worrying more about what the future holds for my children more than I do myself, I have simply resigned myself to a life of pain management, but I'll be dammed if I'm going to lead a life of misery, I owe my family and perhaps, more importantly, myself a fair shot at being happy. This means wholesale change, dropping the opiates and the antidepressants, fixing my physical state, therefore improving my mental state of mind, and hopefully turning a leaf. I'm hoping to be drug-free by 2022 and on the road to self-improvement. My diet will change to a more plant-based diet based on an anti-inflammatory diet, as a chef, veganism has been a challenge so I wonder if as a consumer it will be equally challenging? Spending more time away from the kitchen with people who have a place in my life will be the next major step in moving forward. Filling my immediate surrounding area with positive people creates a positive environment that can only lead to positive outcomes for me. Perhaps this is selfish, but believe me, I think I have earned this one. The road to perfection is one that you need to be wary of, it's a fantastic ride, but the fall is a large one, and one they don't tell you about, the one you need to learn to deal with yourself and one many will run away from. The outside world after life in kitchens is a scary place, routine disappears, the adrenaline surges have long gone, and new highs don't seem to quite cut it. Can we adapt to the new life and new ways? As you all know as well as I do, we are a very resilient type of human, we conquer new problems every day with creative fixes, we put our souls into our final plates and we love what we do, the only difference I'm seeing for myself now, is that my life deserves the same opportunities. In the same way, I will always wear my heart on my sleeve.
  22. Emotional and physical wellbeing? What is it? Ok, so what is this golden question, which has so many answers? A quick search online will undoubtedly, give you many results, teetering on a million, but not all those answers are easy to find, amongst the conflicting advice, there is a lack of compassion and everything can seem so sterile, impersonal, and redundant when it doesn't fit "YOU"! That's right, I said "YOU"! Everyone has their own issues, and for whatever reason, we don't always fit one particular mold, and for one, I think that's fantastic as it shows us that we are all individuals, and we all walk our own path, amongst the billions of others doing the same. It's in these small details, we can find ourselves and our own individuality, which makes us, for better or worse, who we are. In the same fashion, it should also alert us to the fact that there will be others feeling, the same way. So that "YOU", now becomes "US", we are all part of the same family, "WE", are not alone, and in knowing this small fact, silver linings can be found. I'll admit, sometimes it's not easy to find them, but they are there, and they can make all the difference in having an enjoyable day or a terrible one. The Oxford English definition of the word "Wellbeing is, The State of feeling healthy and happy. I believe this can be expanded upon to create three subheadings, which allow us to break the complexity of the word wellbeing down to more manageable sections. These are the following. Emotional Wellbeing Physical Wellbeing Financial Wellbeing They are without a doubt all linked, and if we are to feel the true meaning of the word, we will need to succeed in all three of these particular issues, however, it will not be a sprint, this a marathon and short-term realistic goals, need to be set individually for long term gains. It doesn't matter how small a change you make; the most important notion is that you realise you need some change. Wellbeing is the experience of health, happiness, and prosperity. It includes having good mental health, high life satisfaction, a sense of meaning or belonging, and the ability to manage our stress levels, something we all know about in kitchens. Most of the time the state of wellbeing is achieved through, thoughts, actions, and experiences, most of which we have full control over, remember this advert, Positive Mental Attitude. It sets an example of how mental positivity impresses on our daily lives. Although corny, the simplicity of the statement is profound, and the idea, beneficial. Emotional Wellbeing To develop emotional well-being, we need to build emotional such as positive thinking, emotion regulation, and mindfulness. Often, we need to build a variety of these skills to cope with the wide variety of situations we encounter in our lives. As chefs this is nothing new, and something we are particularly good at. When we have built these emotional wellbeing skills, we can deal better with stress, handle our emotions in the face of challenges, and quickly recover from disappointments. As a result, we can enjoy our lives a little bit more and pursue our goals a bit more effectively. Physical Wellbeing To improve our physical wellbeing, we need to know what a healthy diet and exercise routine looks like. If you are like me that ship sailed a long time ago, but recently, starting yoga has made an enormous difference to me. When we improve our physical wellbeing, not only do we feel better, but our newfound health can also help prevent many diseases, boost our emotional wellbeing, and limit the number of health challenges we must deal with in our lives. My personal physical wellbeing was to blame for my spiral in Emotional wellbeing, they are all linked. Financial Wellbeing To improve financial wellbeing is tough, it often means more sacrifices than the others, however, it is about a sense of security and feeling as though you have enough money to meet your needs. It's about being in control of your day-to-day finances and having the financial freedom to make choices that allow you to enjoy life. You work exceedingly hard, so why shouldn't you reap the benefits? Changes in the industry will allow for better wages going forward, however, financial wellbeing is still on us, and how we look after our finances to sustain the life we want. The one aspect we must all remember is that everyone has their own share of problems, it doesn't matter which category you fall into, you may even fall into all three, what you need to take away from that, is that others are going through the same. "YOU" are not alone. Reach out from time to time, as the chef standing next to you, may just need an ear, and you never know when you might need theirs. Looking out for others is one of the first steps in looking out for yourself.
  23. Wellbeing could mean safety. It could mean calm. It could mean community. It could be internal to you. It could be in the environment. In my first post I wanted to put that thought out there and to talk about what it means to me and what its meant to me in the past. When do you feel well? For me, in the kitchen, a feeling of wellbeing is there when I feel like I am being my best self. When I feel safe in myself and safe in the environment that I am in. For some I know it is in the midst of service. When adrenaline is flowing and they feel part of the team. The brigade. With a feeling of being in that moment. It used to be the case for me. Not anymore. For me I enjoy a calmer, more balanced environment. Which are you? It can be a rhetorical question or one we talk about, but its invaluable to know. To know yourself. To know what wellbeing feels like. To know what you need in your life to feel it. The Chefs Wellbeing program and the Chefs Union as a whole are here to say that this DOES matter. The days of the hospitality industry being stoic and tough and putting up with a life without wellbeing are OVER. Your wellbeing MATTERS. And the wellbeing of your friends and colleagues matters. Its in our hands. Have a think. I just want to leave this here. Namaste Steve.
  24. When I say your voice, I mean a lot more than the words you say. Your voice is your connection to your true self. A term I really like. That state where you are being true to yourself at its core and you are not being directed by external stresses. Yoga philosophy sees our voice being affected by the fifth chakra. The throat chakra, the Vishuddha. A blue energy. We are looking to have each chakra in balance. In particular to us chefs I am interested in how this means we communicate. Balancing your voice Deficient- timid, not sticking up for yourself, leads to be being walked all over in the kitchen. Being blamed for things you haven’t done, working too many hours as you don’t say no! In excess- self-important, arrogant, not prepared to listen to the ideas and feelings of others in the kitchen. A great chef is a chef that has managed to balance this energy. Which one are you? Can you see a lack of balance in yourself? Your personality and body composition will of course emphasize this. Too much fire in your system will likely put you into excess whilst too much water will likely make your voice deficient. This is yoga philosophy at its best. Helping you to understand what you could be doing to feel more in balance and therefore calmer. How what we eat could help? In excess, try cooling foods such as coconut or deficient then try a bit of chilli or garlic to stoke your inner fire. In general, ripe fruits are known to help balance the energy in your throat chakra. They symbolize authenticity as they only fall from the tree at the right time. Also, anything blue to nourish the energy. Purple Sprouting broccoli or blueberries perhaps. The movement or Yoga Asana and how this can help. Balance is the key here. Deficiency of your voice can be helped along by opening the chest, shoulders, and throat. Asana’s such as fish, ideally supported fish, or melting heart. In excess means you need to try to close down that area. Forward folds of almost any kind will be beneficial. You should understand as well, this asana has the added benefit of the calming and cooling effect of the inversion. Balance as ever is the key, doing a combination of both is often the key. It’s not easy to start getting the benefits this way from yoga asana, it takes time and practice, but it really is worth sticking with. If you have any questions or would like some guidance, I would love to hear from you, There are always other activities you can do to help balance your voice. Activities that stoke your inner fire will also help. Sport for example? To calm your voice, you Could do something as simple as take 5 deep breaths when you feel yourself at melting point. If you’re interested, get in touch 🙂 You know yourself, trust it. That’s so important to remember. Namaste
  25. For #mentalhealthawarenessweek this year I’m thinking about Yoga and how my yoga practice has helped me bring awareness to my own mental health. So, a bit of a spin but stay with me. I believe that I can use my yoga practice to bring awareness to my own mental health. For example, I may feel anxious as I practice certain poses or get angry and frustrated during poses I struggle with on certain days but on others could feel calm with the difficulty. Some more examples: If you can’t sit quietly in meditation, then perhaps your mind is racing during day-to-day life at the moment. If you judge yourself for how you are practicing your yoga, are you judging yourself in other areas of your life? If you are frustrated or angered by the teacher or yourself, do you do this with others in your life? I see the process of a yoga practice in a similar way to life itself. Yoga can bring joy but can also make you feel terrible. It's not usually on the teacher's websites mind. There are certain poses that you will find suit you and certain poses you will find easier than the others around you. I’ve always found this hard, but in learning to deal with it in a yoga class you can learn to do it in the workplace and in life generally. Does this help me? Well, sometimes it doesn’t help at all. Sometimes my practice will simply tell me what I already knew. But it can bring me aware or how I am feeling. Other times my practice can slow me down. My brain may be in overdrive with positivity and ideas but just waiting to crash. The awareness then brings me back into control. I can make my next move. I believe in practicing yoga calmly, without judgement, knowing how far and when to push my body, by practicing with balance. Perhaps the way to practice life… If you are interested in seeing how Yoga could help you. Keep an eye out for one of my online practices or drop me a message for a chat.
  26. How can yoga help wellbeing? Yoga is a science which came from India and is a union of the body, mind, and true self. A Holistic approach to wellbeing from how we behave, breathe, move and be still. “Yoga is a search of the self, based on an inner practice and detachment”- Himalaya Yoga Valley Centre Physically stretching the body. Asana practice can help balance posture issues that cause neck and back pain as well as ease the pain of repetitive actions and helps the effects of being on your feet for long hours. Simply great physical exercise for strength, mobility, and cardio. Helps blood circulation, digestion and moves energy around the body. Mentally Stress and anxiety management With better, more controlled breathing happier chemicals can be released and we can spend less time living in fight or flight mode. Allows you to find space to be yourself, with yourself. On a Community level. Encourages you to feel more at one with others encourages compassion and non-judgement the potential of a yoga ripple effect is massive for the wellbeing of whole communities. Why be interested? I am passionate about the words above because it worked for me. I have lived it. From one summer of practicing yoga whilst running one of Ireland’s top kitchens I found… I suffered almost no back or neck pain compared to before. yoga gave me the physical release I needed that I usually got from running but without causing further burnout. by simply practicing breathing exercises daily I found myself reacting calmer to instances of extreme stress. helped me be less judgemental of the others around me. helped me step back from being so hard on myself. gave me a break from that 24/7 feeling I get from running a kitchen. With both Cooking in Mind and the Chefs Union I am hoping to achieve the following over the coming months. Have the conversation about yoga. What do we need from yoga? Finding ways to give us all the opportunity to practice yoga. Connect Yoga teachers with those that need it. Talk about how yoga philosophy and practice has helped me and could help you. Namaste to all
  27. Let’s face it, the way we feed our kids at school is nothing short of a national disgrace! My work with local schools has brought me into daily contact and I have been traumatised by the poor standard of cooking and the planning of school meals.Food has often become a revenue earner in many schools and food is often created that is a “seller” regardless of it lack of nutrition. Hi Carb and hi sugar is the order of the day with many children now reaching their recommended intakes by early morning. Pizza, cheese on toast, cakes paninis, cakes, sticky buns, all on sale by 11.00am. When Jamie Oliver first highlighted the situation, we have known the dangers and I really thought schools had changed but they haven’t. I started out shocked and dismayed but I needed to find out why this was happening and after a years study I believe I have found the reasons, the answer’s and the solutions. This all might sound grand, but in reality the answers have been staring us right in the face for many years. Kids need feeding for sure, they are hungry at the best of times but the “full on assault” of the politically correct brigade has proved a failure. Replacing pizza with a Fruit Kebab might sound the answer but the uptake is poor, and so the value is of no significance. Schools also rely heavily on the revenue generated by the sales of Hi carb-Hi sugar items to sustain jobs, if they suddenly drop in revenue redundancies are likely if not inevitable and this too is a major issue and a real reason for the lack of progress So what DO we do? British Children are now addicted to Sugar and Carbohydrates, there is no doubt. Until now the technology in food has not been at the forefront (although it has been there for many years ) that enables us to replace the Hi-Carbs and Sugars with an equally effective product in both taste and value. If we can produce flour based products with Low Carb alternatives that are great to eat and cost the same price them we are at a major turning point in school feeding, and I believe that time has come. The revolution in Vegan and Allergenic free products has stormed the supermarkets and the technology to produce the Lower Value items that we seek is right there to be harnessed and used. If the kids want Pizza, great let them have it, BUT let us ( the industry ) make sure that what they eat is vastly reduced in Carbs and sugars, and that it still tastes great and that the caterers can continue to run their business cost effectively. Low Carb flours and Bread ( Hovis Lower Carb ) are now so advanced that they are indeed a real alternative and whilst still expensive that cost will come down with consumer pressure and continued use. The same applies to sugar. Alternatives in the past were poor but the revolution in Plant Based, natural products has seen a real alternative such as Stevia coming to the market That’s where food4kids comes in. We will use our Union to lobby industry and schools to come on board, help us to produce these products and put them into the real environment. Unichef is a Community Union and where better can we make a difference then right in the heart of how every school should run, from its kitchens. We will teach and educate Heads, Teachers and the kids into the future of eating and bring awareness about Obesogenic Environments. We will work closely with the Schools, Caterers and suppliers to ensure a consistent and sustained approach to this NEW challenge, a 21st century challenge using technology to solve the issues that we face. We will encourage top chefs to be involved and help us to produce items and menus fit for today's educational system and we will bring food back onto the curriculum where many believe it should be.
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