Fit for Purpose. Blog by KnifeofBrian

The  Staff Canteen

This month, Brian Powlett, head chef at the Greyhound in Ipswich and owner of Knife of Brian Cookery & Catering, is encouraging chefs to lead an active lifestyle despite the long hours and lack of free time. 

In last month’s post I wrote about chefs and food servers dealing with mental health issues. I’d like to thank all those who got in touch about that post. I was very overwhelmed by the responses I received. It seemed to ring home with a lot of people in this industry. If it encourages just one person to talk or open up, then my job here is done.

KnifeofBrianThis time around I’m writing about something a little closer to home. Possibly a little less intense too. This time it’s physical health or rather, lack of it. I don’t know about you chef, but my body is giving out on me. My metabolism has slowed right down since I hit 40 years old. For a long while I could eat or drink whatever I wanted with no real change to my weight or health. This is all a bit obvious I guess. We get older, our bodies take more looking after. We need to be investing more time into getting in and staying in shape. There lies our problem, eh chefs? Time…free time. The chef’s nemesis.

Over the last few years I have been a member of a running club. I have completed a couple of marathons. Both times with no way near the required training. Crossing the finishing line battered and beaten then back to work the next day. I know there are plenty of other professions which can make it hard for the individual to focus on keeping fit and healthy. It’s just that this hospitality industry is notorious for grinding its employees to a pulp and discarding them without a second thought. And we just accept in as the way it is.

I have said before that we as chefs need to make sure we balance our lives with other activities. We are soldiers. We’ll muscle our way through a 14 hour shift. Grazing on bread ends, charred chicken fillets and a rogue cherry tomato. At the end of the shift we’ll patrol the kitchen for end-of-day scraps, like a cliché New York hobo behind the bins. Which is, ironically, where you’ll probably find us sitting with our feast that would make any “Clean Eating wellness” blogger implode. We won’t be Instagramming this shit!

The days off will come and there are very few of us who can be motivated to go and run, hit the gym or do anything that will improve their physical health. Unless you include sleep. There are chefs out there who can fit in the healthcare, but they are in the minority. It’s not a healthy lifestyle. We work to cater to other people’s leisure and pleasure. Our own diet usually takes a back seat.

So what is the solution? For myself, I try to cycle to work and sometimes I run. The diet requires a massive amount of discipline, which I don’t have, “You gonna eat that piece of bacon?” It is hard, especially when starting out on getting healthier. It is however, very possible. Employers should support the healthier pursuits of their staff. Encourage the 5-a-side team. Promote coverage of your chef in the marathon. Surely we’d rather have a fit kitchen, as opposed to the brigade of renegade, broken pirates.

So whatever you want to do chef, whether it’s swimming, cycling, running or even all three. Go do it. Try to make time for it. I have entered the Birmingham Marathon in October. I have no idea how I’ll get on, but I want to do it. I am fortunate enough to be supported by my employer and my customers, who gladly take the piss when I turn up to work in lycra!

Just go do it chefs. Your body needs it!

Brian Powlett, KnifeofBrian
Brian Powlett, KnifeofBrian

Knife of Brian is head chef at the Greyhound Ipswich and Knife of Brian Cookery & Catering. He supports CALM (campaign against living miserably) male suicide charity and has just finished his first pop up event at the Suffolk Show and would be a gigolo if he wasn't a chef.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 12th May 2017

Fit for Purpose. Blog by KnifeofBrian