Chef Cândida Addresses The Impact Of Toxic Work Environments On Mental Health
Factors Such As High-pressure Situations, Long Working Hours, Poor Management, And Intense Competition Contribute To The Problem.
Renowned international chef, Cândida Batista, known for her innovative approach to cuisine, takes a bold step in openly discussing the prevalent toxicity in the workplace within the restaurant industry and how it affects the mental health of workers. Cândida, with her extensive experience in prestigious restaurants worldwide, not only sheds light on issues that often remain in the shadows but also provides insights into how the culinary community can address and overcome these challenges.
The chef shares her perspectives on the often overlooked and emphasizes the need for changes and enhanced support systems within the industry. Toxic work environments are unfortunately widespread in the restaurant industry, with factors such as high-pressure situations, long working hours, poor management, and intense competition contributing to the problem. Chef Cândida highlights the negative impact of toxicity, including increased stress levels, decreased morale, and reduced job satisfaction. This is even sensationalized on television with shows featuring chefs with rude and aggressive attitudes becoming entertainment for many.
"Unfortunately, studies reveal that suicide rates are significantly higher among chefs than in professions unrelated to hospitality. Even more concerningly, a 2017 survey revealed that 51% of chefs and hospitality professionals face depression and debilitating stress levels," states Chef referencing the article published in MASHED (here). Organizations like Fair Kitchens or The Burnt Chef Project emphasize the need for a healthy environment and offer support to the community.
Cândida aims to promote a healthier and more equitable work environment, where chefs and kitchen professionals can thrive creatively without sacrificing their mental health. She will share her own experiences, highlighting the urgent need for a cultural shift in the industry to ensure the well-being of all involved.
BENEATH THE SURFACE OF GASTRONOMY:
UNRAVELING TOXICITY BEHIND THE SCENES OF THE RESTAURANT INDUSTRY
After maternity leave, Chef Batista returned to work when her daughter was 1 and a half years old and still breastfeeding. As she grew, she managed to adapt her routine to her career and negotiate to work only a few nights, instead of the classic double shift. After years of working in Michelin-starred restaurants, she felt more comfortable offering private chef services, giving her the freedom to accept or refuse each job.
"In the winter season of 2023/2024, I accepted the challenge of opening a hotel in the Alps. I moved from the luxurious capital Vienna to the nearest town of the hotel, a place with 2,100 inhabitants where mountains and farms are in sight. I spent the summer and fall visiting local producers, testing recipes, and choosing ingredients that would best represent the region for the menu," recounts the Chef.
Despite the long working hours, it seemed that the results were positive: the plates returned clean, and the waiters brought positive feedback from customers. For Candida, the journey was intense, with about 15 hours a day, and only one cook, responsible for pastry, had the autonomy to maintain his station. "I had to prepare absolutely everything for the rest of the kitchen. Cândida says, "The sous chef, who should have been my right hand, lacked the training and even the most basic skills to be a line chef! Even after alerting the owners that I preferred to replace him with two kitchen helpers, considering the whole situation, the decision to keep him on the team overloaded us more and more each day. "We even got to the point of serving raw potatoes!" says the Chef.
Restaurants should prioritize the mental well-being of their staff as a vital component of overall workplace health. "It's not just about preparing delicious food; it's also about creating a positive and supportive environment for the people who work tirelessly behind the scenes," says Chef Cândida. She urges restaurant owners and managers to take responsibility for fostering healthy work cultures that encourage open communication, provide adequate breaks, and promote a balance between work and personal life.
According to Chef Cândida, addressing the issue begins with an honest assessment of the work environment, followed by the implementation of strategies to improve conditions. This includes establishing clear channels to report concerns, offering mental health resources, and creating employee well-being support programs. By investing in these areas, restaurants can create an atmosphere that promotes both physical and mental well-being, resulting in better productivity and employee retention. The harmful effects of toxic work environments on mental health extend beyond individual employees to the overall success of the restaurant.
Cândida Batista, the international chef, brings a passion for cooking rooted in her Brazilian heritage and refined by global experiences. Since her training in 2008, she has forged a remarkable career in prestigious restaurants in Prague and Vienna, working with renowned chefs like Gordon Ramsay. Her unique approach combines the authenticity of local ingredients with global culinary techniques, while her artistic expression transcends the kitchen, standing out as a Playboy model and participant in the Hell's Kitchen program, solidifying her position as a renowned international culinary visionary.
CHEF CÂNDIDA BATISTA