Just a Bad Day or a Case of Chef Burnout? How to Tell the Difference
Q Are there different levels of burnout in the kitchen? How can I tell if I’m just having a bad week or if I really hate my job? What do you do when the sound of a new ticket coming in fills you with rage?
A: Most people that enter into cooking as a career don’t realize that every once in a while they will face an existential crisis. You’ve seen that cook: 15th day straight, too much coffee, permanent bad attitude.
When you are that thinly spread, the smallest hitch can have you questioning your career choices and whether or not you would be happier cleaning up dog shit at the pound instead of searing fish.
Burnout is a real issue in professional kitchens as stress, long hours, and brutal working conditions combine to beat down even the happiest of cooks. Most of the time, a day off and a few beers are the cure.
There are those nights, however, when every time you are about to fall asleep, you hear the ticket machine. When you wake up every day wondering what sort of non-life threatening injury can get you out of work that night.
These are symptoms of full fledged burnout. A condition with no sure fire cure. Other symptoms include all consuming rage, nihilism, and alcohol abuse beyond the normal everyday drinking. The major side effect of a burned out cook is shitty food, which is why it is in every chef’s best interest to make sure the kitchen crew is healthy and happy.
This is where the support group built into every kitchen comes into play. Believe it or not, your kitchen manager, lead cook, sous chef, or chef has felt the exact same way at some point in their career. One of the unknown perks of working in the food industry is the psychological support you can get from your peers.
Holding rage and hate inside does nothing good for you. Rage might get you through the dinner rush, but over time the negatives add up. Asking for help is hard, but no one will think less of you for it.
If that doesn’t work out and the burnout continues, it might be time for a job change. It could be that your current situation will never get better, be it horrible owners or bullshit corporate rules.
It can be scary to make major changes in your life, but staying somewhere you hate isn’t good for you in the long run. Determine what you need in your life to make you happy and work towards that. Staying in a horrible job just for the money almost never turns out well, and sometimes a little less cash and a lot more happiness is the solution. Good luck.