“The culture that you create in your kitchen should reflect you as a business owner”

Alex South

Alex South


The Burnt Chef Project found that stress, depression and anxiety accounted for 50% of all work-related ill health cases amongst kitchen staff.

As part of a panel at the Commercial Kitchen Show 2022 discussing how kitchens can alleviate stress and create a positive culture, Anna Haugh owner of Myrtle, ruled that business owners are responsible for ensuring staff are supported.

“The culture that you create in your kitchen should reflect you as a business owner, but also as a personal personality,” she said.

Highlighting what measures have been introduced to staff at her restaurant in Chelsea to reduce stress, Anna explained: “I think people should work the hours that they can physically work themselves, so we don't have like set rules of there's one way for everybody and that’s it.”

She added: “I sit down and I interview people for the hours that they want to work, the money they want to earn, and sometimes if they're very young and they have unrealistic expectations, part of the kitchen culture we have is that the team help that person understand what they can and can't do."

For Taylor Bonnyman, Chef Patron at Michelin-starred The Five Fields restaurant in London, it’s important that a common goal is agreed and discussed between staff.

"I always say to people, we're here to have a bit of fun, make a bit of money and hopefully we will be here tomorrow. I like to have this answer because it's important to motivate a collection of individuals, working with a common goal, to make them do something really good.”

The comments from Taylor and Anna follow efforts across the industry to improve kitchen culture and address the brand image problem that currently exists in Britain’s hospitality industry.

From three Michelin-starred restaurants like Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck in Bray that offer staff discounted gym memberships and massages, to luxury hotels like Whatley Manor in Malmesbury, where Executive Chef Ricki Weston has created bespoke learning days and introduced a 5-day week for his team businesses across the industry are eager to create positive workplaces to help retain and improve employee wellbeing.

Getting members involved and being open with them regardless of rank or how experienced they may be is essential for creating a positive working environment, argued Robin Gill Chef Patron of the Bermondsey Larder.

He explained: “I think it's really important to have a morning meeting and service meetings, so everyone knows what's going on, and not just the key people everyone gets in so everyone feels involved when you talk about what's going to be on the menu.”



The honesty and pragmatism from the panel was well received by the Burnt Project’s Founder Kris Hall who’s made it his mission to challenge the mental health stigma and support hospitality workers.

“The interesting thing about managing expectations, we are getting individuals coming into the workplace now who have only have only ever worked at KP level for example, and suddenly are at head chef level,” explained Kris.

He added: “You put those people in a position where they are under a tremendous amount of stress because they don't have the resources or skills and then ultimately, that doesn't just reflect badly on them as individuals they then look badly at the employer as the root cause of that issue, which it’s just exacerbating their current situation.”

Highlighting that this isn’t just an issue for junior members of staff but staff across all levels, Anna said: “It's a remarkable how old we can be, and we still don't know what we need, and you have to pay for that. Sometimes, in the past, I've had to make staff take holidays, where I've been like 'that's it until, you're away for five days, don't come to work. If you come into work, you will be sent home.' because they're burning themselves out.”

Reiterating the importance of a team whilst being mindful of each other’s abilities, Kris explained why it’s important to treat and interact with staff on an individual basis, ditching the one shoe fits all approach in the process.

Kris said: “We're actually starting to see that your individuality is what makes you, you, or what you bring to the team with different resilience levels is vitally important for creating that cohesion and that sense of long-term retention.”

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Alex South

Alex South

Editor 23rd September 2022

“The culture that you create in your kitchen should reflect you as a business owner”