Why Reddit Says You Should Never Become A Chef

It's no secret that kitchen staff in the restaurant industry are experiencing burnout. Chefs and cooks often work long hours in hot, enclosed environments and are encouraged to participate in what Vice calls a "work until you drop culture." Mental health is suffering among these individuals — Vice cited a Unite study that revealed that 51% of chefs experience symptoms of depression due to working extended hours: 56% said they have taken painkillers, 27% use alcohol, and 41% take stimulants just to make it through service. 

These staggering and alarming statistics are echoed by Reddit users who discussed the ramifications of the often unrealistic demands on the kitchen staff. "My years as a chef/cook helped cement my alcohol problem ... People thought I had a glamorous job when I told them what I did. Like I was just competing on food shows and making cute pastries for the 'gram while making good money. No, no. I get screamed at for $9 an hour, in an 80-degree kitchen with one smoke break maybe if it's slow," commented one user who went on to say they also suffered multiple serious injuries in the kitchen.

Current demands on chefs are 'unsustainable'

It's not only on Reddit that chefs and cooks are airing their frustrations and concerns about restaurant "work until you drop culture." In an article for Food & Wine, chef Ryan Lachaine of Riel restaurant in Houston, Texas, spoke about the unmaintainable nature of kitchen burnout. "I'm tired every day ... It's mentally taxing on you. I'm stressed out ... I always knew it was going to be hard, but the day to [day] stress is something that I didn't expect," Lachaine said. Chef Sarah Rich of Rich Table in San Francisco, California, agrees, exploring the question of if kitchen expectations continue to increase, what will happen to staff well-being. "The honest answer is that it is not sustainable," Rich said.

As the World Health Organization adds burnout to its list of International Classification of Diseases, Culinary Lab makes some suggestions for how chefs and cooks can avoid it, including being sure to take time off, maintaining work/life balance, and taking care of themselves physically.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.