by Laura McWilliams, chefhealthcoach.com
As chefs, we spend a lot of time thinking about how to prepare the best possible products and how to control costs. Something that we might not think about is how hard the work is on our bodies and our overall health. Working long hours, eating restaurant food all day, smoking and drinking to socialize with the crew — it all adds up to health problems later on in life.
One of the major barriers that chefs see between themselves and living a healthier life is their work environment. While it’s true that kitchens and restaurants can be unhealthy places full of bad habits, overindulgent lifestyles and rich foods, they are also workplaces with a solid sense of teamwork. Without this teamwork, we could never get the food out as fast, get the prep done and provide the customers with a seamless, pleasurable experience.
Our solid teamwork mindset in the kitchen gives us an incredible opportunity for change. Chefs can learn to leverage the power of their teams to successfully make changes to their diets and lifestyles, changes which could alter the course of their lives and their careers. Here are 10 ways that you can use your team to help you get on the road to a healthier you:
1. Start a water drinking competition and have the staff join in. Everyone can bring their health department-approved bottle (or you could provide bottles for your team with their names on them). You get a point for each day that you make your hydration quota.
2. Change family meal, or the staff menu, to include healthier options. Lead by example, and order the good stuff!
3. Start the shift off right with a powdered supplement like Emergen-C mixed with soda water on ice for everyone. It will replace soda drinking and help keep your crew and yourself healthy.
4. Implement a rotating lighter option on the specials menu and put your crew in charge of coming up with dishes for it. Have them make one for you for lunch or dinner some days.
5. Ban the use of energy drinks in your kitchen. They slow your brain function and cause you to need more caffeine to keep going. Seriously, these things are not helping anyone be faster or more efficient — not to mention the link between energy drinks and heart problems.
6. If you have to stick to an eating protocol or special diet for a period of time, assign one of your best cooks to be your honorary taster.
7. Get your crew outside whenever you can. Take the racks outside on a nice day to clean, put a smoker out back and run specials off of it. Install a screen door, and leave the back door open through shift. Fresh air and sunlight make a huge difference in our health and our mood.
8. Start walking or biking to work when you can, and give out small prizes to staff members who do the same.
9. Make kitchen-wide stretching breaks mandatory. People who stretch their bodies are less likely to injure themselves and have more energy throughout the day.
10. Keep the music, conversation, and mindset positive at all times. Nothing brings a group down faster than a bunch of negativity or smack-talking. If you want to feel your best, physically and mentally, and have a clear mind to get the job done, surround yourself and your crew with calm, positive, upbeat energies.
Implementing any or all of these ideas will make a huge difference in the health and happiness of everyone in your kitchen, your whole restaurant and especially in you.