Adam Simmonds, Imrun Texeira, Kris Hall: 'Even a five minute conversation with somebody can help them in their day'

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor

As a hospitality worker, Coping with the mental strain of Christmas is tough at the best of times.

"As it is today, there's a lot of stress and pressure," said chef Adam Simmonds, largely due to staffing issues, with added uncertainty relating to Covid-19.

"You put all those together and it can become a massive nightmare for businesses and for staff," he said in a panel discussion with The Staff Canteen editor Cara Houchen and The Burnt Chef Project founder, Kris Hall, as well as fellow chef and ambassador Imrun Texeira.

"People are expected to work more than they would do normally, and at this time it's very difficult because can't be with their families," he added.

"You top that with the pressures of 'are there going to be further lockdowns,'" as well as travel restrictions affecting business, "it becomes a whole different ball game from the normal pressures of what Christmas brings to the industry."

In this context, he said, "you can only push the guys so far," as "there needs to be an air of responsibility," but full to the brim with guest expectations as high as ever, it's hard to know where to draw the line.

Given the pressure, he said, "It doesn't feel like Christmas, let's put it that way."

For Canadian chef Imrun, Christmas will be spent with his family. Like in the UK, Omicron-related restrictions in Canada have caused hospitality businesses to receive a slurry of cancellations, with little inkling as to whether more safety measures will need to be implemented in the coming weeks.

"Obviously you can't blame anyone for making their health a priority, but having those last minute cancellations affects business," he said.

"At the same time, we want to enjoy the holiday period for ourselves, so we're really trying to come to terms with what's happening but at the same time trying to stay positive - though it is definitely a daily battle." 

So how should you cope with the realities of the current situation?

1) Ensure that when you do get time off, take the time to connect with your family and friends

For Kris, "feeling that sense of connection and belonging is vitally important in this time - when we are faced potentially with more lockdowns, we want to make sure we maximise our opportunities to [responsibly] see our families and make the most of that." 

2) Keep a gratitude diary 

Similar to journalling, writing down what you're feeling grateful for on a daily basis can be highly beneficial.

Kris said: "If we start to focus too much on the media and what's going on in the wider hospitality world, your programming in your brain is quite negative and focusing on the bad things." 

By writing down two or three things you're grateful for every day, "is a really good way of honing in on those good parts." 

3) As a manager, let your team know they can count on you - and as an individual, don't underestimate the importance of seeking support

For Adam, "no matter what goes on, I do try and breed a positive attitude in the kitchen. It's important that they know that we are a team and that we will get through it no matter what."

What's more, he said, "it's important that I'm an open book for them, that they can come and speak to me about whatever it is, and if I can I will do my best to help them. If I can't, I put them in the right direction. That's an important thing for me. They know that, and with that, then you get the team around you."

As a manager, reiterating to the team that he is there to support them through tough periods like Christmas is crucial. 

"Yes we need to get through the next two weeks, but part of my job is to weather the storm for them to protect them." 

"As a team member, there are certain things they don't need to get involved in or worry about - that's the manager's job," he said.

4) Savour the little things that bring you joy 

For Imran, focusing on joyous details can bring about a lasting positive feeling.

"The main thing I push for is to make space for the things that really do bring us joy," he said. 

"It's easy to get bogged down with the daily grind, making sure that we make ends meet."

"Obviously it is a survival instinct at the end of the day, but the main things we should really make time for are the little things," such as "that morning coffee with your partner ,or getting in that physical exercise, having time to read a book."

"Especially at this time of year, you overlook the little things and I find they help to bring a lot more positivity into your daily life. 

"Really put importance on enjoying those things, because it's going to really make the day go by better.

"It will help you keep your head clear - especially when times get tough like this."

6) Remember, you're not alone 

Loneliness and stress are feelings shared by many during this period. 

For Imran, being involved with an organisation like The Burnt Chef is not just about breaking the stigma around mental health, but "opening up tht dialogue with other people that you're working with, within the industry but if your family as well, and with yourself."

"We're taught as young chefs, 'you keep your head down and focus on your work,' and sometimes if you keep your mouth shut for a long time you're going to internalise a lot of stresses and problems."

"We've got to remember that we're all one big family, everyone is fighting their own battles and you want to create a nice work environment where everyone is able to voice their concerns, their problems, and bring in different rays of happiness as well."

For Adam, being able to provide help is just as important as it can be to receive it.

"Even a five minute conversation with somebody can help them in their day. It's about helping others - through helping others, it helps you also, because it takes you out of yourself."

"I've had people reach out to me, asking for help. And to be able to change how somebody's feeling in a five minute conversation, it means a lot." 

Where to seek help

As stressed by Chris, everyone experiences difficulties, but none of them "mean that you're broken or damaged."

"Often enough by opening up and speaking to someone about it, it can bring a great sense of relief and start you on a journey to be able to recover or develop mechanisms to be able to face it healthily."

"If you can't speak to anyone that you know personally, come and speak to us. That's what we're here for.  


If you need assistance, advice, or just someone to talk to, you may find any of the below helpful:

Contact The Burnt Chef

The Samaritans

Hospitality Action

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Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor 23rd December 2021

Adam Simmonds, Imrun Texeira, Kris Hall: 'Even a five minute conversation with somebody can help them in their day'