When Chefs Ask Me How I Overcome Fears In Business, I Tell Them I Do This

When the phone’s stopped ringing and all the billing and filing are done, I tend to get contemplative. When my day of work is complete, I come back to what I know deep down. To what I believe. 

I’ll be honest with you. During the 23 years I’ve run my businesses there are times I’m afraid. I have trouble getting to sleep. I struggle staying asleep. And sometimes I struggle to get out of bed with a happy face. It can be hard to stay positive and that’s important because it’s my job to motivate others in their business. I’m getting better at navigating this fear. Because there are times in life when it’s good to be afraid. A little fear can show what matters and what’s worthy. 

For me, the fix is to get quiet. To become still.

See, when I get still I can sit in complete awareness of what I know to be true. And what’s inside of me that’s true provides everything I need to move forward each day. From this stillness, I tap the vision within me of how I want to use my talents to help shape a better world. 

In these moments of meditation and prayer, I align myself with my purpose. I align myself with my purpose rather than allowing the chatter in my head to direct my thinking, rather than letting ‘the worry’ disrupt my day and sidetrack my productivity. 

Because all that shit is really just self-pity. That overwhelms me. 

I strive to be like a tree incapable of having its trunk uprooted. Though I don’t always succeed in this, I can. I do. A lot of the time. And when I do, life becomes a lot simpler. 

The stillness brings me back to what I know. What I am meant to do. To teach. To coach. To help. 

I know that the people I can make the greatest impact for are chefs. I’ve worked with chefs for 25 years. I married a chef. My kids’ lives have been shaped by great chefs. 

My purpose is to help chefs live better lives. For themselves. For the world.

Chefs Have Choices About What They’ll Endure

I understand why chefs love their tattoos so much. It’s because they tell the story of who they are. But I also know chefs tend to over-identify with their suffering, with that part of their identity. 

I know a lot of chefs who’ve been ill-taught. Wounded. Came from tough homes. Kitchens are filled with chefs who got a raw deal.

When I set out to run my coaching business, I had a vision of affecting the lives of 25,000 chefs. And I sent it right out into the world. 

I’m on my way. I teach chefs that they don’t just have to ‘endure.’ I know this, from my own experience. I have a past, too. I got a ‘history.’ I come from a broken household, a fucked up household, a home where physical abuse and sexual molestation was this dark and dirty Secret that was never too far away. And, yeah, I have my own experience with alcohol and drug addiction. 

I want to call it like it is. The ‘chef world’ can be terrible. Let’s just say that. It can be downright nasty. Abusive. Hellish. 

And you shouldn’t ‘fit in’ to that. You shouldn’t ‘endure’ that. Even if it makes for a good tattoo. Don’t.

I know a psychotherapist I trust deeply.  He says when a human is in a terrible situation — and I mean terrible — they are faced with only two choices: Adapt to the horror or ‘breakdown’. Seriously.

What he says next will blow your mind.

He says the healthy person breaks down. It’s not a weakness. The healthy person does NOT adapt. It’s actually better, healthier, to let things break down. 

That doesn’t mean a chef who feels undervalued or works with a bunch of assholes has to have a breakdown. It means they must recognize a toxic environment  and break away from it. Anything that requires you to sell their soul to do what they love is not right. And you should NOT try to fit into it.

Chefs Can Shift Their Pride from Adapting to Rising

Adapting to an insane lifestyle is insanity itself. Society might not tell you so. Your boss might not tell you so. But I do. A good psychologist would. Ray Bradbury would. 

I’m involved in more than a few Chef Groups on Facebook — and there’s just this overwhelming refrain of suffering, of “I can’t take this anymore,” of “what am I going to do?”

The answer is to stop trying to fit into a situation that will kill you. Chefs deserve more. You deserve more.

Adapting to a shitty awful backstabbing bloodsucking situation is not the healthy choice. 

Break down. Get out. Move on.

My husband always says — in his wise, loving way — that kitchens aren’t typically where you find your valedictorians of the world. He points to himself as an example. But I think Chef Grog’s observation is of a kitchen as a workplace where people who didn’t feel comfortable or fit into social or academic worlds could come use their hands and their backs and perfect their skills. Where immigrants with language barriers can show up, work hard, and rise up from peeling potatoes to become ‘somebody.’

Sadly, the vast majority of chefs don’t become Executive Chef. They stay on the line, underappreciated. They stay on the grind, undervalued. Until the work breaks them.

Couple that with the grueling hours and conditions and it’s no wonder people in the kitchen often turn to drugs and alcohol to get through the shift or to numb themselves afterward.

I believe chefs can have deeper, more fulfilling lives when they focus less on adapting to an unsustainable job and lifestyle, and more on rising to become the highest version of themselves.

Chefs Have Rights. The Manifesto of Truth for Chefs

Restaurants are a world where ‘toughness reigns, survival is supreme, and sarcasm and a quick wit keep you from becoming mincemeat to your coworkers on the line.’ Not an environment where the majority of human beings can or will flourish. I know this. My husband, Chef Grog, knows this. Deep down, you probably know this, too. 

And that’s why I’ve worked for so many decades to help chefs who want out of the restaurant. To Go Independent. To express their talents and their gifts, to serve others through their food, on their own terms. That’s why I work so hard to allow you to claim your independence and purpose as a Personal Chef or Private Chef.

This is the basis of my manifesto of truth which contains 10 rights of chefs.

I Know That:

  • Chefs are professionals. They are not broken. They serve, but they are not servants or slaves. 
  • The ‘pride of belonging’ is not a valid substitute for a good paycheck. Chefs don’t have to prove they belong, constantly work to earn love, or give away their talents for free to gain acceptance and praise. Chefs deserve to be paid a solid living and should have time off from work to live a full life. 
  • Chefs deserve to be seen. They can take part in social gatherings without having to be the one who does the cooking, and they don’t have to stay out of sight while slaving away to make others happy. 
  • Chefs deserve to ask for help — from coworkers, from mentors, for their personal life, for addiction, for starting their business, for taking out the garbage. 
  • Chefs don’t have to suffer. They can choose a better life for themselves. Chefs deserve to have fun. 
  • Chefs are professionals. Chefs are talented as heck. Chefs are artists — in the truest sense of the word. 
  • Chef’s deserve to be free — their thought-life needn’t be filled with anger, resentment, fear or suffering. Chefs deserve peaceful space between their ears.
  • Chefs can believe in themselves. Chefs should believe in themselves. Chefs must believe in themselves.
  • Chefs are vital for society — and chefs should be able to live a financially secure Life of Purpose.
  • Chefs have choices. No one will ever treat you worse than you’ve given them permission to. Chefs can change their lives in an instant with just a decision.

Join Me to Make the World Better By and For Chefs

Chefs deserve to do what they love and get paid what they’re worth . Chefs deserve to be appreciated. Chefs deserve to be valued. Because most people can’t do what chefs can do. 

I love chefs. I love the type of people you are and what you can do. May sound sappy, but it’s the truth. 

I hope this manifesto hit you in the heart and soul. I hope some of it rang true. This is what I know to be true, and now I’m going to go ‘get still’ so I can get up tomorrow and keep putting my work out into the world. I hope you’ll put your fears to rest, rise up and join me in the work of making the world better by and for chefs.