ACF Chef Lisa Dorfman on Work-Life Balance and Mental Health

By Kenya McCullum

ACF Chef Lisa Dorfman, MS, RD, CSSD, CCMS, LMHC, FAND, aka, “the running nutritionist,” participated in the “ChefsForum: Focus on Mental, Physical, and Emotional Well-Being for Chefs” webinar, which covered the importance of promoting good mental health in the culinary profession. As a licensed mental health counselor, having these types of conversations is nothing new for Chef Dorfman, and she enjoys being a part of the solution for chefs who are experiencing challenges. In fact, she participated in ACF’s work-life balance task force, and she offers her services to chefs on a sliding scale. We spoke to her to find out why she’s so passionate about this issue.lisa dorfman headshot

What did you do on ACF’s work-life balance task force?

I was chair of the committee, and it was a group of veteran chefs from all different areas — we had educators, we had corporate chefs, we had private chefs. Everybody who was selected to be on this committee had some level of involvement with mental health or physical health, and we collectively came up with strategies and solutions in the areas that are important for maintaining work-life balance, which chefs traditionally have a hard time doing because we do like to serve and to make people happy. And we tend to work very hard, so the work-life balance committee came up with strategies for how to attain and sustain physical, emotional and professional balance. Also, opportunities for growth and development and how the ACF can be a part of that were discussed.

What made you want to participate? 

There was no doubt in my mind that I could bring something to the table and contribute just for the fact that I’ve worked pretty much anywhere anybody could eat — from the Ritz-Carlton to the federal prison, to resorts, cruise lines, restaurants, hospitals and addiction treatment centers. So I knew I’ve worked with enough chefs and I have enough degrees and experience to offer something. I felt it was an honor and certainly a responsibility and obligation because I couldn’t hold back what I know.

You mentioned during the webinar that you work with chefs on a sliding scale. What services do you offer?

During COVID, I decided because so many chefs were losing their jobs and losing their restaurants, that I wanted to offer my services for free as much as I could. I offered mental health services for absolutely free for people truly in crisis since I have a virtual platform that’s HIPAA protective and I have an office. I said, ‘Just please reach out to me through Les Dames d’Escoffier, because I’m a member,’ and through them, I was collecting donations for those who are in need of therapy. So if chefs gave a dollar because that’s all they had, I used it as a fundraiser for them.

Now I accept many of the insurances that hotels and restaurants offer, so a lot of chefs come to me because it’s covered by insurance. I’m happy to work with as many chefs as I can, given there are still only 24 hours in a day. Obviously, if people are suicidal or they need a lot more than I can offer, I always refer them to a suicide hotline and find another practitioner who specializes in something I don’t work with.

Why do you feel it’s important to do so much for the ACF community?

ACF is really where my heart is because I think it’s just so unbelievably supportive of the chef. They really, truly are looking out for the health and well-being of the chef. And I love their support. I just feel the responsibility to give back. I have these skills and I have this background, and ACF is the place where I want to give that energy. While I do things for other groups, and I’m a member of other groups, I just have gotten so much satisfaction by giving my energies to ACF.

Click here to watch the “ChefsForum: Focus on Mental, Physical, and Emotional Well-Being for Chefs” webinar.