Any 9 to 5 job can be stressful — between intense meetings, difficult bosses and the added stress of everyday life, nobody’s day is a breeze. But when you consider the physical and emotional demands of working in a kitchen, it just makes us wonder: How do chefs stay grounded after a long night slinging plates on the line?
It’s no surprise that a chef’s job and schedule can be hard on their health. Aside from the grueling physical aspects of the job, a shocking number of chefs deal with mental health issues that stem from long hours and complete lack of work/life balance.
But there’s hope for us all! The tips below are simple suggestions from the pros on how to stay grounded and relaxed in even the most stressful of careers.
Find Your Routine
Don’t leave it to chance — you should have a plan for unwinding instead of letting the chips fall after work. With a little trial and error, anybody can successfully find a post-work routine that brings the chill.
“My unwind is listening to Audible or Howard Stern on the ride home from the restaurant,” Chef Dan Kluger of Loring Place says. “Once I get home, I like taking the dog out for a midnight walk, rolling out my back on a foam roller and then answering late night emails with a glass of wine or bourbon in hand… then put something on Netflix and fall asleep.” We love all of these suggestions (especially the wine).
Watch Something Calm
Watching movies and TV are great go-to activities after a long day on the job. A bit of binge-watching can be supremely relaxing, but not if it’s a high-stress show (ahem, “The Handmaid’s Tale”). Pick something light, funny, and easy to consume; not something that’ll continue to send your blood pressure through the roof.
“Personally, I find watching ballet to be very relaxing,” Blue Apron chef Tracy Malechek says. “Ballerinas are extremely graceful and they make it look so easy. As a professional cook, we are always trying to find our rhythm, our own effortless flow, so I find that very aspirational.”
Switch Up Your Drink
Most of us — in the kitchen or otherwise — tend to reach for a glass of wine after a long day. But stray away from using booze as a regular reward. Instead, try making a cup of warm herbal or green tea. It’ll help you unwind and, hopefully, catch a deeper sleep.
Put Pen to Paper
You need to reset after a long day, so spend some time getting those heavy thoughts out of your head. Journaling — of any kind, and for a person in any profession — is proven to be beneficial for reducing stress. On paper, a busy chef can forgive, forget and ponder the day’s events for some sweet release.
Do Something (Else) With Your Hands
Some may want to give their body a rest after a long day over the stove (or at the computer), but for many, easing the body into a more meditative activity feels better than sitting still for the rest of the night. Try knitting, gardening, or something more visually creative. Take it from chef Dennis Foy of Café Loret : “The adrenaline rush of preparing perfectly executed, flawless plates is overwhelmingly pressurized. In that sense, perfection has a cost, which has too often led to over-indulgence,” he says. “In that regard, the demands of the easel, the slow evolution of a painting, the next brush stroke, has channeled that raw energy from the kitchen in a direction that has soothed my visceral primal scream.”
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