Feeding Ourselves First

Ishwariya Rajamohan

Ishwariya Rajamohan

Other 16th April 2018

Feeding Ourselves First

No one who works in our industry is a stranger to this: the ever-present struggle with our finances. We’re really feeling it at a micro level, where our compensation doesn’t match the work we put in. But it also plays out at a macro level. In a competitive, challenging market, our businesses understandably find it safer to absorb rising costs, without passing it onto the customer.

Sure, the gift that comes from this is that we’ve all had to be more creative and efficient. Both with or personal spending and our restaurant menus. And like other service professionals, we’re not cooking purely for the money. Our motivation comes from our natural inclination to give: we’re big-hearted people who live to feed others. But as is the case with nurses, teachers and caregivers, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to say that our work is highly undervalued.

Where’s the money?
There doesn’t seem to be an easy fix for our financial situation - multiple forces have to align for us to experience more prosperity. And let’s be honest, the industry isn’t really rushing to fix this problem, is it? This is where we have to ask ourselves: how are we not fully owning our own worth, chefs? How are we teaching the world to treat us? What can we do to meet the change that we’re really needing to see in our lives?

Feeding Ourselves
Owning our worth isn’t just about asking for higher remuneration; sometimes the smallest of our actions reveal the standards we’ve set for our lives. Let’s take a look at how we treat ourselves. As chefs, we’re known not to prioritise our well-being unless we’re hit by a wake-up call. And how do we perceive ourselves? MacDonald's founder Ray Kroc famously said, “If there’s time to lean, there’s time to clean.” The intention behind that statement is clearly about maximising staff productivity, but do you see how it dehumanises us? How it implies that if we aren’t being productive, we don’t matter?

We also have to take an honest look at how we treat each other. This is not to say that our actions are always responsible for our rewards, but just think about it. When we treat someone in the kitchen badly, we're setting the tone for what treatment that chef learns to accept from someone else. Do you see that by attacking someone’s self-worth, we’re lowering our own because we only move forward as a collective?

Give and take
The last point I will make is about how well we balance giving and receiving. We’re well known for being generous with our help and being ever-ready to share our talents by cooking for others. But how comfortable are we with receiving help from someone in the kitchen? Don't we have a tendency to do it all ourselves?

How receptive we are towards being given more ultimately ties into our capacity to handle more that comes our way. And that can be in the form of more money or success or even a higher profile. Isn’t that something worth taking a serious look at, chefs?

Ishwariya Rajamohan founded Love Letters to Chefs, which is a platform that is devoted to helping chefs navigate the challenges of the profession. It's aimed at helping you really own your gifts and capabilities and bringing your best self to work. It's about seeing the human being and not just the person who shows up to work in a chef's jacket.