In Good Health

Chef wellbeing takes front and centre

Last year the music industry began to tackle both the mental health concerns and stigma associated with the biz, and this year, it’s the turn of the restaurant and hospitality trade. We’re finally starting to see the expectations for 16-hour days and an off-kilter work-life balance called into account by both chefs and front of house staff. It might mean more concise opening times or losing the lunch service altogether, but in the name of improving wellbeing in the hospitality industry, we’re all for it.

How do you solve a problem like a negative, ingrained culture? Break down its components. Ed Wilson and Josie Stead of Brawn have just announced that with staff welfare in mind, they’ll be closing their Columbia Road restaurant on Sundays (a bold move for this part of town). They’ve also said there are more plans afoot to improve their team’s work/life balance. Reducing opening hours has to be the right place to start.

Then there’s knowing when to properly kick back. We mentioned Trade at the end of last year, but the fact it’s run by hospitality royalty isn’t the only draw: Trade is a private members’ club for every level of the hospitality community – annual membership is set at £190 a year (or £20 a month), making sure it’s affordable for everyone. What’s more, the license runs until 3am Monday to Saturday – perfect for a post-shift drink in the lounge with other industry pros.

And then there’s improving working conditions even when you’re on the clock. We remember being surprised when Tommy Banks told us he’d stopped a lunchtime service at The Black Swan, Oldstead, in favour of staff foraging for ingredients for the dinner service. Michelin-starred Sorrel, in the Surrey Hills, is closed all of Sunday and Monday for staff welfare, and have designed their bright, open plan kitchen with plenty of natural light for their staff to work in.

Finally, the next time you have a spare afternoon, stop by Massimo Bottura’s Earl’s Court Refettorio Felix. Here you’ll find his not-for-profit organisation Food for Soul, a culture project encouraging chefs, artists, designers, and food suppliers to collaborate in building and sustaining community projects for the vulnerable.


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