BURN OUT.

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by tthompson338, Dec 20, 2017.

  1. Yes, it is worth it, stick around

    80.0%
  2. No, get out when you can its a dead end road

    20.0%
  1. tthompson338

    tthompson338

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    I am a 32 year old who has been in the culinary industry since I was 16. I was told by a mentor (whether good advice or not) that if I was not a head chef by the time I was 25 I would not make it. I believe a lot of this has to do with my personality and drive at the time I was told. Well, the month before my 25th birthday I was offered and Exec Chef position at a family owned restaurant and after 5 years moved on to make more money and run a large hotel. The hotel was a dream job but they worked me from 6am-12am at least six days a week and short staffed me like crazy. I went to the GM and begged for help with employees as their procedure was to have the HR director post ads etc. The FBD told me they lost ten people they never replaced when I showed up. Employees were drinking on the Job and it became so miserable I left after 6 months. They would cheat my employees out of hours on their checks, promise to give raises to keep employees there then take back the offer..After I left the hotel I took a job on Marthas Vineyard to run a seasonal restaurant and did so successfully for a season. Now, I am burnt. I do not enjoy being in the kitchen, I do not dream up new dishes, and have no goals except find a job that I like doing. So now I am completely fried and wish I knew what direction to go. I want to find a job that appreciates me, values my time and supports a creative side but It appears impossible to find. I am hoping that someone has some advice or experience going through what I am going through and found a way to get themselves out of it and how so. I began looking at getting HVAC certified or maybe even being an electrician. I realize I started young and took on big roles early, but as driven ambitious and in love with cooking as I was it felt naturally...this burn out, feels very unnatural. I saved enough and have been out of work for 3 months and still feel very bleh about cooking still. Any personal experiences or advice would be very helpful for me to analyze my situation for myself.
     
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  2. hookedcook

    hookedcook Banned

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    I was in the same place you are and still am. Cooking is a job. I appreciate the life its given me but food equals work to me. I don't even enjoy going out to dinner. I eat 95 % of my meals standing up. One thing would recommend, if you are single, look into being a yacht chef. Kind of takes some of the sting away. In the Caribbean for the winter and the med for the summer. Diving and kiteboarding makes cooking not that bad.
     
  3. foodpump

    foodpump

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    Hey TThompson...

    A smart restaurant owner won't hire a bartender until s/he knows at least 1000 ways to cheat. How else will they know when their bartender is cheating them?...

    The stint in a small restaurant was great, but in no way prepared you for a large hotel-- the owners were cheating and not only could you not stop it, but you couldn't recognize it until you were in waay too deep.

    The only way to deal with a mess like you described is to negotiate BEFORE you are hired, once you are hired you have no negotiating power. You were not prepared for these sphincter muscles, which is why they hired you in the first place. I guess I sound like a sphincter muscle too, but I've experienced the same or worse than you, yet I am still cooking, have the same wife, and lifestyle.

    Hvac pays good, the hours are good and conducive to meaningfull relationships. If this is what you want, go for it. If you still love cooking, do what hooked cook said, and bomb around on a yacht or two, then make up your mind.

    Hope this helps.....
     
  4. chefbuba

    chefbuba

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    I've been there a couple of times. I jumped out for a couple of years, then couldn't stand being away from the action, dipped back in and picked up where I left off until total burnout after seven years of movie catering.
    I didn't do anything for about nine months, then stumbled across the opportunity to start a small trucking business with more business than I could handle for six years. Hung that up, sold my home at the top of the market and had a house and big shop built on a few acres in a small town in a new state, loved it didn't work for two years until I got the food bug again. Had a food trailer built, did bad ass burgers, cheese steaks, pastrami and hand cut fries and beer battered onion rings for seven years until my health declined and couldn't do the work any longer.

    Now I walk with a cane and sometimes a walker. Whichever path you choose quit sacrificing your body now, or you will end up like me in twenty five years.
     
  5. recky

    recky

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    I was burned out by the workload of being self-employed less than two years after starting up my tiny country restaurant (which sounds oh so romantic, but I learned the hard way that it ain't!) in 2011. With a little help from my doc I pulled myself out of my misery by totally restructuring my restaurant, i.e. hours, hiring help for the kitchen and the paperwork, rethinking the (ever-changing) menu, or I would have ended up in a burn-out clinic. I got divorced in the process (my marriage hadn't been working out and contributing to my burn-out), ad despite fewer hours and less stress I started making more money.

    I could change things up at my restaurant because it is MY restaurant. I know that I couldn't work for someone else; I love being my own boss. Due to a widespread shortage of reliable staff in this country I have even resorted to running the kitchen completely on my own again, and it's great to have everything under full control.

    Perhaps, and it's a big jump, you might consider starting your own restaurant? Don't do this without a well thought-out concept and business plan, though. But if you do, it can be quite rewarding.

    Cheers,
    Recky
     
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  6. frankie007

    frankie007

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    I too was in a similar situation as many on this forum would of been. In the end I took over a small operation in a pub where they could't afford the chef and cooked nice food while working for myself. It was very low risk, I didn't make a lot of money just enough to pay the bills but boy did i feel better. Now after nearly 3 years I am taking over a large kitchen with a partner chef friend of mine and feel 100% better. You might need a move of that sort, someone mentioned a yacht job, good idea change of scenery will do you good. You are much younger then me so you could go for another career but remember you would be starting from the bottom, for me it's to late I have painted myself in to a corner, i can't do anything else and don;t want to be commis again in any job. Good luck!
     
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  7. chefross

    chefross

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    I respect and understand all of the above situations.
    The one thing that always stands out in my mind is the people that work for and with you.
    They aren't all in it for the love of the craft.
    Many of them are as has been described before on these threads, as burn-outs, alcoholics, potheads, etc...
    These people can have an affect on you and aid in the burnout.
    If you are not getting support from the others around you, it can bring you down as well.

    As foodpump mentioned, it all starts with the interview process. So many aspiring young people look at a job interview from the wrong position. Most of the time a person comes in looking for a job and hopes the place hires them.
    Most of the time the applicant knows very little about the place that they are applying at.
    A lot of the time the applicant doesn't have the necessary personality to ask the right questions.
    The applicant should be interviewing the manager and the place as well.
    Researching a place BEFORE applying for a job is the most expedient.
     
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  8. flipflopgirl

    flipflopgirl

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    My brother changed jobs at 55.
    Was tired of dodging bad guys in the Middle East (why is it that the countries with the worst conditions have the most oil fields to be developed) took care of most of his big ticket debts and got a certification in welding.
    Kinda ironic that most of his job offers were coming from Big Oil contractors and located in those same hot spots.

    As for me I bounced in and out of the industry for decades...my body is shot and this holiday season is my first without a job.
    I am using my time to teach the Grands to make the family fave treats.

    Good luck to you...

    mimi
     
  9. drirene

    drirene

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    Ouch! Tthompson. Burnout sucks, and it happens to those who care the most and work the hardest.

    One of my first jobs out of grad school (psychology) was working an in-patient state hospital for the chronically mentally ill. The patients were very sick, mostly schizophrenic, and conditions were devastating. The place was understaffed and poorly run. Of course I was out to cure the world. Two years of this and I was fit to be tied - and ready to leave the field. (Thankfully, that place no longer exists.)

    What restored me was a new job, fewer hours, a very different population, and decent management who gave me more control. This along with the love of people I could talk to, running miles and miles, lots of sleep, and eating well. Antidepressants too.

    So, hang in there. Take loving care of yourself. Work less if you can and let your mind and body recover.

    Look for a different work environment.
    A quote in the last article below said it all for me: "In short, burnout is a crisis in employees' psychological connection with work."

    Some stuff to look at:
    http://www.cnn.com/2011/11/01/living/oprah-burnout/index.html
    https://hbr.org/2015/04/how-to-overcome-burnout-and-stay-motivated
    https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/recovering-from-burnout.htm
    https://www.prevention.com/mind-body/depression-or-burnout
     
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  10. Jain Daugh

    Jain Daugh

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    This is SO TRUE for about ANY job! And definitely NOT taught at any 'school' either. Solid Gold advice chef ross!!
     
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  11. Jain Daugh

    Jain Daugh

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    tthompson, Hooray that you are YOUNG! Pat yourself on the back that you have achieved your 'dream' already and are indeed open to doing other things. I was initially (and very short time!) an RN, ditched that institutional job for more dynamic work in the (then) beginning computer industry (circa early 1970s). By your age I had peaked in that so hubby and I cashed in (house) and moved to boonies to build our own house. When that was completed we started our own 'mom-n-pop' business - which was hardly a high flyer, but sustained us happily. We were able to 'retire' early (like I was in mid 40s) and been puttering around doing what interests us ever since. Through all that time I cooked and enjoyed doing that!

    Sooooo, if cooking is your passion, find whatever situation pleases YOU and forget the 'status' carrot and kick back to enjoy your LIFE as well as being an ace in food presentation and preparation. OR steer your efforts into what ever does interest you and brings you JOY (and some $$s) in the process. Oh, and I forgot to add that during our multi-job background, dear hubby got to stay home for like 3 months while I worked. It was a great experience for both of us! - He got to appreciate what I had been doing (and played golf too), while I got to 'educate' him about cooking. He never would be a 'cook', but it was grand to come home from work and have dinner on the table :).
     
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  12. granola girl

    granola girl

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    You got lots of good advice from wise people. Burn out is something that happens to the best of people in every field. You have to be honest with yourself about how you feel about your profession. That is so hard to do given your current situation. Start with...What is it that you liked about cooking? what is it that you like about the industry? If you shifted your approach to your talent, would that change your perspective of the field? If you were in complete charge of everything? or in charge of a few people to help, or in charge of a crew? I taught Kindergarten-4th grade for 9 years in the public schools. I got burnt out about being in the classroom. The staff meetings, report cards, difficult parents, those were things that dampened my interest in teaching. I realized that I still love teaching and love working with kids. I started teaching cooking classes for kids at the community center and Whole Foods Markets. My calling is teaching/mentoring my passions are kids, cooking, and helping others. I realized what I loved about my teaching field and what gave me unnecessary stress. I needed to shift how and where I teach to get back into enjoying it. Perhaps the same can be said about your culinary career. I have an opportunity to start a cafe in Anaheim, California at the ARTIC (google it). I've never started nor operated a cafe. I own a baking company. If you are open to moving to Anaheim/Orange county, this could be a win for both of us. Please see my post under Job forum.
     
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  13. chefwriter

    chefwriter

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    Here's two cents. Something in you wants to cook or you wouldn't be posting here.
    As granola girl so aptly pointed out, it's important to distinguish between wanting to cook and wanting to work a specific job in the food industry.
    For a potential job, I'll suggest looking in to catering. While you surely did buffets and events in the hotel, that's not just catering. I greatly enjoyed my stint in a catering company. A country club might not be a bad choice either, depending on the club. As several here do, consider working in an institutional setting like schools or prisons or the retail trade like supermarkets. Food processing facilities could be interesting.
    Also, expand your personal awareness of the "food industry". You already know about hotels, restaurants, etc. I often tell posters to visit a dairy farm or orchard. Go see how candy is made. Go catch a fish or visit a fishing dock. Visit an abattoir. Find an ethnic market. Volunteer at a community kitchen. Investigate any place where food is handled in any form. Sports arenas have concessions. Don't have any expectations or predetermined conclusions. Just go and see what you discover.
    At home, make something you never have before. Ferment your own sauerkraut, make some beer, start a batch of vinegar, make some bread or bake a cake. Buy some milk and make some cheese.
    I will admit to feeling burnt out several times over the years. But I have come to attribute that to too much intense focus on one area of the food industry for too long, like looking through a microscope too long and forgetting about the room you are in. The world of food is enormous and filled with fascinating things of all kinds. It can be easy to forget that.
     
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  14. chefbillyb

    chefbillyb

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    I have so many thoughts about what this thread is about. I was involved in Twenty five food services in my career. While working in these food services I went through much of the bull-shit your going through. When leaving one place for another we all soul search and wonder if we are on the right path. All that being said, we need to make our own goals and set our own course. This business is full of empty promises and broke dreams. In many cases the pay never meets the amount of hours and abuse. The abuse comes in having to use all your talents in running a short staffed kitchen and still providing a quality product. The owners and upper management see that it could be done because you have done it. When you ask for more help they'll just think "WHY" you have done it in the past you could do it again. Like Chefbuba said, make your physical and mental health first priority. Get yourself in a position that food and the people you work with and for are fun to be with. When I hit bottom after working in many restaurants and clubs I realized " It didn't matter where I'm at, as long as I could be who I am where I'm at" What I mean by this is, I don't have to be working in and Managing or Cheffing at the most prestigious place in town to accomplish my goals and be happy. I learned this about 6 months after driving up a road to take a job at a Potato Processing plant employee cafeteria and thinking "what the Hell am I doing here". I walked into this position with many years of experience in all facets of this industry. I saw things of for what they were and what I could do to put my knowledge to work. I took this cafe and made it something to be proud of. The Cafe the employees hand no choice to eat at became a place they look forward to eat at. The company started to see this as an employee benefit and things started to roll. I would be doing Hot Wok demo cooking in the dining room. The menus was fun along with 3 homemade daily specials. This also lead into employee incentive monthly picnics for 1400 employees and lots of catering. What I thought was the bottom really was a stepping stone to a new beginning at starting my own Food Service Management company, Vending and Catering company.
    My suggestion to you is to realize your good at what you do. It wasn't you who knocked you down it's the industry thats killing you. Don't let them win, understand it's up to you to make the path in your life to a successful career. There is happiness just around the corner, you just need to find the right street. Really think about what makes you happy in this business. Then seek out the place that gives you that happiness. This business doesn't have to be a life of unhappiness. Life doesn't have to be a chore. For me the right choice was owning my own business. I'm not saying ownership should be everyones choice. For me it was being able to practice my trade the way I want to. Being your own boss feels good. There is a better life in this business you just need to find whats right for you. Don't give up, just think about what you would love to do and make it happen. I promise you it's out there.......Good Luck and Happy Holidays..........ChefBillyB
     
  15. ChowChow76

    ChowChow76

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    CEC 20+ years...Bachelor Degree Culinary Arts...12 NRA certifications...been doing this to long
    Listen...you are right where I was 10 years ago... Here's the truth...get out now while your young. Go back to school and get a degree in computers or something of the sort. This is a brutal business. The hours, time away from family, the money is not great, and everywhere i have worked where the money is okay the rest is such shit its still not worth it. If you could own your own place this all might be worth it but at some point in your life, especially with a family, you have to get your priorities straight. Working 75 plus hours, holidays nights days whatever is needed while you slowly grow older and the kids and the family seem to age so fast and you seem to miss so much of it because this job demands it. I came to a realization that I needed to reevaluate my priorities and now I work way less hours and make a considerable amount more. Now I get to cook for the shear enjoyment and I have found that passion again that I had burned out in the business. Most people don't realize what a stressful and demanding job the food industry is and when all things are considered, in my opinion, there are just better options.
     
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  16. Pat Pat

    Pat Pat

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    If you still love cooking deep down, then all you have to do is keep looking for a new job until you find one that clicks. At one point, I rapidly switched jobs totaling 4 restaurants in 6 months until I finally landed at a place I was happy working in and stayed there for years.

    But if you really have no love left for food, then you should take on a different career before you become depressed and ended up killing yourself. I started out my working life doing something totally different, but switched to the food industry when an opportunity arose and I never look back.
     
  17. Jet1wa1

    Jet1wa1

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    Do what I did and change direction, I have always worked in catering/hospitality and have changed my direction from butchery to cooking, different sides of the same knife but it’ll give you a different view point and the break you need without being away from the industry
     
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  18. sara mair-doak

    sara mair-doak

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    Hi tthompson
    I went through the same thing when I was 33 after working non stop for 14 years in high end restaurants. What I did was to go to the other spectrum of cooking, I worked of a Artisanal Dairy Farm for 1 year...I got my passion, grounding and love for food back. While doing this I learnt the other side of the industry.I made cheese from 100%grass fed cows, herded them, took care of their calves and sold the cheese in green markets throughout NYC. It was an amazing experience and it brought me down to the grassroots of our passion
     
  19. sara mair-doak

    sara mair-doak

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    Recky I am in the exact position as you....I was sick and tired of making money for everyone else. I run a small BBQ Smoke House in Grand Cayman. It is very gratifying but it is hard work especially because I am in my first 2 years. I would love to chat with you about how you restructured your restaurant to make it work for you.
     
  20. cronker

    cronker

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    I agree. Perhaps find a different path in food to keep the fire stoked. Get a degree in teaching, it's not hard and culinary school is always looking for teachers. Become a rep and be hated, become a "food design" person on a television show, become a small business selling something at your local market.
    There are many jobs that don't involve being in the kitchen.