January 4, 2016
Posted in: Culinary Arts

austin_culinaryartsWithin the greater hospitality industry, turnover has become a significant problem. According to the National Restaurant Association, the 2014 rate of turnover for the entire restaurants-and-accommodations sector was 66.3 percent, up over 10 percent from the year before. For comparison, the rate in the private sector as a whole was just over 44 percent.

These statistics raise the question as to what has led to such a hiring epidemic across hospitality. For one, some people, like dishwashers and lower-level kitchen staff, come and go, which is a normal part of the industry. For others, it’s a matter of simply too much stress, as working in a restaurant can be grueling. Fortunately, there is a solution for the latter, which may improve restaurant retention.

Here are four handy tips to avoiding the dreaded chef burnout:

1. Recognize the warning signs
As Shift Gig reiterated, all chefs operate under a baseline level of stress, an unavoidable part of life in almost any kitchen. However, there are times when the stress becomes unmanageable, and that can harm a chef’s ability to function properly. There are several signs that you or another chef may be dealing with burnout. One is a lack of motivation or passion, which results in ambivalence toward the once beloved art of cooking. Some chefs may also deal with this abundance of stress by drinking more, and this is not only physically unhealthy, but is generally seen as unprofessional conduct. Finally, some chefs may have trouble holding in their rage, exploding at customers and coworkers alike. This behavior is also unprofessional and can affect the ability and communication of the entire kitchen.

To dream up new dishes, or just to keep cooking, chefs have to find ways to bolster creativity.

2. Switch up your day-to-day
Adelaide Lancaster is a business consultant who specializes in personal development. Writing in Entrepreneur magazine, she noted that one of the main causes of burnout among working people is a sense of unavoidable monotony. People get locked into their personal schedules out of comfort, and that can create more stress than even the most busy of kitchens. Lancaster suggested that whether you’re a corporate executive or a chef, you need to try and spice up your daily routine. When you come into the kitchen one day, start with another task than you might otherwise. You can also assign other tasks to the rest of the kitchen staff, which should make things more lively. No matter what you choose to do, the important thing is to get out of the comfort zone you’ve established for yourself. Going against the grain is a great way to make things more exciting again.

3. Make yourself more of a focus
Donald Burns is a chef, author and self-professed restaurant coach. Writing on his official website, he noted that more chefs need to take better care of themselves. Because so many of these people work long hours and engage in challenging work, they almost never take the steps necessary to take care of their own health and well-being. The most important such steps are:

  • Sleep more: According to the National Sleep Foundation, the average adult should get at least 7 hours of rest each night. If you’re having trouble sleeping, speak with your primary care physician.
  • Eat better: Even as a chef, it’s not always easy to feed yourself the proper nutrients. Your diet should consist of carbohydrates – like fruits and whole grains –  and healthy oils, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
  • Take vacations: Burns noted that some chefs suffer from a martyr syndrome, and feel as if they can’t ever leave the kitchen. However, vacations are a way to deal with stress and come back feeling more energized and motivated than before.
  • Work out regularly: Exercising reduces stress and improves your physical functions. To make room for a workout routine, Fitness magazine suggested walking or biking to work and recruiting a gym buddy.

4. Get off to the right start
Chef Ming Tsai is a noted pioneer of fusion cuisine, and the author of several cookbooks. Speaking with Street Directory, he said that improving retention, and thuss reducing the influence of burnout, stems from a chef’s initial training. Essentially, chefs need to make sure they receive the best education possible. It’s this combination of skills and understanding of the expectations inherent to working in a kitchen that Tsai might argue are invaluable to preventing burnout. That’s why it’s so important to not only pick the best culinary arts program possible, but learn as much as possible.