EVERYONE GETS YELLED AT IN THE KITCHEN. I remember my first time trying (failing) to make pizza sauce and having to throw out everything I made because it came out too terrible (no adjustments could ever save that concoction). I was about six or seven years old at the time. I still remember the verbal lashing I received because of all the sauce I ended up wasting. Today, I’m 24, and I continue to get yelled at every time I slice something the wrong way or overcook a piece of meat.
I could only imagine the pressure cooks face whenever they’re working in a professional kitchen. The risks are huge every time they turn on the stove. If the dish isn’t perfect, it doesn’t get out. And the poor cook has to do everything all over. I remember a scene in Hell’s Kitchen where one of the contestants painted a lamb chop red just to fool Gordon Ramsay into thinking that the lamb had been cooked medium rare. It’s bothersome to think that people would resort to such tactics just to not get yelled at in the kitchen.
The risks are even higher for chefs. They have to check every single detail of the dish and make sure everything’s up to standard before letting it reach the customer. If it’s improperly seasoned, overcooked, undercooked, or simply even just boring, it’s going to make a poor impression. Aside from that, a single piece of hair or a dead insect could instantly ruin a restaurant’s reputation.
It’s not surprising, then, that mental health is a problem in the kitchen. It’s one of those professions where you subsist on a regular diet of verbal and physical harassment, anxiety, and depression on a daily basis. In the film Burnt (2015), we follow the story of Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper), a former Paris chef who resorted to drugs and other harmful substances in order to survive the heat in the kitchen. While the movie never went into this in depth, I believe it’s time that we take educate ourselves and raise awareness on the issue of mental health in the kitchen.
For a profession that’s so much about sensual joy and physical satisfaction for the end consumer, it’s hard as hell on the psyche — and there is something about it that drives to may of us to it in the first place.
Chefs with Issues aims to help people in the food service industry speak out and seek help for mental health disorders. In the website, Kinsman invites chefs, farmers, servers, and other people involved to share their stories and tips on how to deal with the pressures of being in such a competitive and demanding industry. Ultimately, Chefs with Issues hopes to destigmatize the issue of mental health in the kitchen.
Locally, in the Philippines, mental health is a topic we hardly ever talk about as a people. In a country where basic health care is inaccessible, mental health support is even harder to come by. We have to educate ourselves on the mental disorders many of us face. That way, we can make a communal effort to show others that nobody has to struggle with these issues alone.