Ishwariya Rajamohan

Ishwariya Rajamohan

Other 17th December 2018
Ishwariya Rajamohan


2018 has been momentous for our industry, but let's reflect on the messages beyond the big headlines:


Chefs collaborate across continents all the time, but we don’t always unite as a collective with others outside our local industries. The passing of many revered chefs this year, Paul Bocuse and Anthony Bourdain in particular, brought us all together. We grieved losing not only much-loved figures, but ambassadors who did so much to raise the profile of chefs in the world.

It’s likely that no one person will take their place. In the void they’ve left behind, it’s now for each one of us to be ambassadors for the profession. Thanks to social media, we’re all enjoying a bigger presence than chefs have had at any other time in history. So, let’s always be conscious of how we uphold what it means to serve as a chef - even through the smallest of our actions.


Mental health campaigns gained a lot of momentum this year. As chefs we’re being encouraged to put aside our masks of invulnerability and ask for help if we need it. But that change in attitude alone is inadequate, as long as our work continues to take a toll on us physically and mentally.

We need radical shifts in how we work. The call is for every employer or chef leading a kitchen to take an honest look at their workplace: is it contributing to the problem or is it part of the solution? And for the rest of us, let’s continue to lend our support to any of our colleagues who might be facing a challenge in the kitchen. But let’s not restrict it to those facing mental health issues, but also to anyone being bullied or treated unfairly because of their gender, race or identity.


Maybe it’s been aptly named: would it be a bad thing for the Final Table to be the last show of that kind? For nearly two decades we’ve let television reduce our work to cooking under intense pressure and being critiqued for it. But we all know that running a kitchen involves so much more. And it takes other qualities besides creative genius for a chef to succeed at the game.

What if the media conveyed the full picture of what it takes - so that customers valued our food and paid a price that matched the effort that went into preparing it? Wouldn’t that be a game changer for all of us in the industry? One thing is certain: we’re definitely not going to achieve that cultural shift through the MasterChef formula.


Headlines about automated restaurants, robot chefs and bartenders are not new. But what I find more scary than the prospect of our profession being taken over is how technology companies frame their inventions in ways that dehumanise our work. Robolab, who are looking to launch Yanu the robotic bartender claims that they are, “a real company building real machines, solving real problems.” Is queuing for a drink the ‘real problem’ when compared to the reality of someone losing their job? (Yanu supposedly does the work of four bartenders).

The possibility of us having to compete with robots might be distant, but it still is a wakeup call: now, more than ever, we’ve got to stop taking ourselves and each other for granted. And that means embracing our imperfections and shortcomings. Because that’s what makes us human. And if we’re not able to accept that about ourselves or our colleagues, we might as well step aside and let the perfect, consistent robots take over.

(Robotic arm image source - www.moley.com
Final Table image source - www.netflix.com
Paul Bocuse image - Jeff Pachoud, sourced from www.theguardian.com)

(Ishwariya Rajamohan founded Love Letters to Chefs to help chefs navigate the challenges of the profession. It's about really seeing the human being who shows up to work in a chef's jacket. Her current focus is the #BetterCheflife project, and the hashtag is being used on social media to promote the concept of a better work-life balance in our industry).

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