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New Year’s Resolution: Save the Chefs

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Still looking for a new year’s resolution? We have one for you. How about reducing the level of stress in the kitchen?

We’re not just talking about finding new ways to cope with stress; we’re talking about getting rid of the things that drive you crazy. It’d be nice, right? But, if you work in a commercial kitchen that may sound impossible.

Stress is the status quo in the kitchen.

Stress is part of the kitchen mystique; it’s embedded in the culture. Some wear it like a badge of honor or toque blanche. Long hours, brutal heat, high expectations, and dangerous conditions are part of the territory — they give culinary staff their street cred. But, what price are we paying for all these stressful heroics?

Do people who work in commercial kitchens really have to live their lives like workers in a Charles Dickens novel? Or, can something be done to improve conditions and make the kitchen healthier, saner, and more efficient for all?

There’s a better way to design and organize the commercial kitchen.

A few months ago, we had the opportunity to participate in a unique collaboration. We were invited to join four other European equipment manufacturers at The Food Service Technology Center in Oakland, California. During the event, we explored how European kitchen innovation, specifically related to commercial kitchen equipment, is reshaping the design and function of foodservice facilities.

Fusionchef, along with Henkelman, Angelo Po, Irinox and PacoJet took part in hands-on experiments and discussions. A test kitchen was created to include each of the manufacturer’s equipment side-by-side. The focus wasn’t on any individual piece of equipment but on how they could be used together to create a new process and approach to cooking.

Innovation is shaping the future of food service.

During the event, we noticed several things. We were able to look into the future of the foodservice industry and see a reality where it was not only possible but probable to:

  • Do more with less space.
  • Reduce heat in the kitchen.
  • Limit the amount of highly skilled staff needed for meal prep and production.
  • Limit the number of dangerous tools needed to create recipes.
  • Refocus skilled culinary staff on what they love to do.
  • Create a kitchen that’s more automated and programmable.
  • Change the amount of energy we use.
  • Create a consistent process and system for every facility.
  • Save in food and labor costs.
  • Drastically reduce food waste.

We took a lot away from the event but one thing, in particular, made an impression. We kept thinking about how non-culinary people were able to work alongside skilled chefs to create remarkable food with relatively low stress. These participants had never worked together before, and there was no rehearsal. Space was very compact, but the equipment made it easy to collaborate. Could this be a way to reduce stress in the kitchen?

While there are numerous benefits to the equipment that we design, manufacture and sell, we’ve become acutely aware of how our equipment, along with other modernist cooking techniques, can improve kitchen culture and reduce stress.

It’s time to focus on the health and wellness of chefs and kitchen staff.

According to some studies and statistics, being a chef or professional cook may be the most stressful job you can have. We know kitchen stress exists and contributes to unhealthy behaviors, mental illness, and addiction but, so far, it hasn’t become a big priority for the industry.

We seem to accept that stress is just a part of the cooking process. We even believe that our staff thrives on it. But that’s not true. A little bit of stress may motivate us, but continuous, long-term exposure to unhealthy conditions and unmanaged stress can lead to dysfunction and disease.

A lot of the 2019 food trends focus on health and wellness, from plant-based foods and CBD infusions to reducing food waste and finding more sustainable forms of protein. But, what about the health and welfare of those preparing the food?

What you can do to reduce the culinary staff’s exposure to stress.

A good place to start is by putting the culinary staff’s wellbeing on the priority list alongside things like guest satisfaction, food costs, food waste, sustainability, staff retention and hiring, revenue growth, and marketing. Or, if you want to make improvements in all these areas, try moving staff wellness to the top of the list and see what happens.

And from a practical perspective, consider changing the way you make decisions related to design and equipment. You can do this several ways:

  • Start investing in modern equipment and cooking techniques that improve overall operations and lower stress.
  • Look for equipment that can do more than one operation, allowing you to save time and space.
  • Acquire tools that help you automate, program or set cooking functions and leave them.
  • Evaluate equipment based on its ability to create consistent outcomes every time.
  • Look for items that improve conditions in the kitchen, like lowering the ambient temperature or freeing up space on the line.
  • Think long-term instead of short-term. You may have to experience some initial stress to get less stress down the road (this is the nature of change).

The European kitchen culture, with its much smaller-sized restaurants, helped spur innovation, and that innovation is helping improve conditions throughout the industry.  Products like our sous vide circulators and the HotmixPRO Gastro, along with other modern equipment, can help advance operations, save money, reduce stress, and even save lives.

We believe chefs should be revered for their creativity and craftsmanship; they shouldn’t have to go through a war zone to prove they’re heroes. What do you think? Are you ready to join our mission to reduce stress in commercial kitchens in 2019?

To join us or for more information on how our products can bring peace and wellbeing to your operations, call us at 1-877-436-CHEF (2433) or 610-231-0250. Or you can request a quote.