According to a report conducted by Deloitte Access Economics, more than 38,000 chefs are needed across Australia. Colin Fassnidge, judge on the popular televised cooking competition My Kitchen Rules and the head chef of Sydney restaurant 4Fourteen, blames the shortage on the laziness of Gen Y. He told The Daily Telegraph, “A lot of young people don’t want to work hard.”
Well, Colin might think that millennials are lazy for not wanting to be chefs. But I actually think they’re quite smart.
Katey Shaw, a 23-year-old who has recently finished her culinary apprenticeship, told News.comNews.com: “Being a chef is one of the highest pressure jobs that there is.” Chef Yannick Chauvet wrote a blog post that reads: “Never would I wish for my children to work in a kitchen…Think a little before starting a career as a chef.” In 2013, an NCETA survey found that the stress of working in commercial kitchens is driving apprentice chefs to drink at dangerous levels.
Earlier this year, Benoit Violier, a Michelin-starred chef (often considered as “the world’s best chef”), committed suicide at the age of 44. In 2003, celebrated chef Bernard Loiseau also committed suicide after rumours that his restaurant might lose its third Michelin star surfaced. Being a chef is clearly an exceptionally stressful, highly competitive and highly judged career in the public domain.
In most countries, food guides, newspapers, magazines and online articles publish harsh critiques of eateries and thus impact their success. Journalists, bloggers and anonymous critics make careers for themselves by judging and rating restaurants and cafes, sometimes with negative comments. And the fact that there are multiple places to eat in every suburb of every state makes being a successful chef an extremely competitive job.
Colin Fassnidge: “A lot of young people don’t want to work hard.” (Gif via MKR)
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, over 37% of people under the age of 24 and almost 30% of people between the ages of 25 and 34 are living with moderate or extreme psychological distress. The Department of Health believes that the prevalence of mental-health issues such as depression and anxiety may be up to three times higher among young Australians than across the community as a whole.
Gen Y is a group of young people who are often struggling with mental illnesses, particularly depression and anxiety – two mental illnesses that could lead to the committing of suicide. So, deciding not to become a chef, which is a pressure-filled career choice, is actually a smart move. Gen Y is doing themselves and their community a favour by choosing careers other than hospitality. They are protecting their minds.
We might need more Australian chefs, but we also need to look after the minds of a sensitive generation. So until we work out how to make being a chef a mentally-safe, more accommodating and less-stressful career choice for vulnerable Gen Y-ers, I don’t think Colin (or anyone else) has the right to rebuke millennials in this harsh way.