December 11, 2015
More chefs need to take the time to develop the proper work-life balance.

More chefs need to take the time to develop the proper work-life balance.

If you thought the schedule during your culinary arts program was jam-packed, just wait until you start working in a kitchen following graduation. According to HCareers, the average executive chef works 12-to-14-hour shifts as many as five days a week; that’s 60 hours a week and a whopping 3,120 hours annually. Depending on your position in the kitchen hierarchy, you could work even more hours, especially if you’re a young cook still proving your mettle.

That kind of schedule doesn’t leave room for much else, and working that amount can cause burnout and dire levels of stress. Fortunately, there is a way to work your dream job and still have time and energy for a family, hobbies, etc. Here are some handy tips to cooking up that perfect work-life balance:

Say nay
As the Mayo Clinic explained, there is one thing, whether you’re a chef or an astrophysicist, that all people in the workforce should learn: it’s totally OK to say no. If you aren’t comfortable with a job, or you’re feeling burned out, you have the right to express yourself and your needs. As long as you do so respectfully, your superiors should respect you and the desire to protect yourself for the long run.

Don’t be an island 
Whether you’re the executive chef or just the rookie at the bottom of the rung, it’s easy to feel like you’re working alone in a kitchen, even if you’re surrounded by many others. That’s why, as Chef iO pointed out, it’s so important to develop partnerships throughout your career. That doesn’t just mean having someone you can start up a business alongside, although that’s certainly important if your eventual goal is to own a restaurant or other eatery. It means having people that you can rely on. Not only for kitchen-related tasks, but to vent any frustrations or to share any new ideas. The more people you have in your inner circle, the better you can handle your actual job, which frees up time and energy for a personal life.

Stand up for yourself
Perhaps more than some other positions, becoming a chef is about maintaining personal passions. Those who cook professionally often do so to fulfill a certain creative need, one they can’t as an accountant or lawyer. As a potnetial consequence, being a chef doesn’t always pay well, especially for lower-level positions. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for a head chef is $41,610. Though it might not be as much as other positions, Chef Jobs UK explained that chefs should still demand the same rights as any other worker. That means two days off per week, having decent shifts with some level of consistency and the ability to split shifts with other workers if possible. As a chef, don’t be afraid to talk with superiors regarding work conditions.

Ask for what you want
Some chefs choose the restaurants they apply to based on their overall interest. For instance, if you love Asian cooking, you may be more inclined to work at a sushi restaurant than a steakhouse. While it’s important to fulfill yourself creatively, you need to still think practically as well and also consider jobs with the optimal work-life balance, according to Chef’s Jobs. It’s a fact of the industry that some restaurants will require specific commitments from their employees. For instance, it may be more demanding to work somewhere that is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner than a cafe that’s only open in the evening. You should also try and consider things like when you’ll have to start work, if the restaurant is open seasonally and how many co-workers you’ll have.