For me, walking in nature is also a learning experience. Literally, like this tree in the foreground, that still flowers brilliantly even as a parasite closes in on it. But as a practice, it teaches me about myself and where I am at the moment: what is my energy level like today, what is on my mind, is my physical fitness improving, did I rest well enough, how good is my focus? You will learn something no matterwhat practice you choose, whether it is something you carry out indoors or outdoors.
Stepping away from everyday life helps us really see ourselves and what we need. And believe it or not, this is invaluable information for your work life too. Anyone who is successful pays attention to these things. Because when you are playing at the highest level, it is these small things that give you the edge and allow you to achieve more.
So with whatever practice you might choose in order to balance your life, know that you will encounter rewards that you never even intended to attain. Five years ago, I could not have told you all that I have shared this week. But having gone through the experience of persisting with my rebalancing practice, I am beyond convinced that this will be helpful to you too, chef.
How does my weekly practice of walking in nature help me? You might know better than I do what the health benefits are. But what I gain the most is being able to step outside the drama of my everyday work and life, even if it is only for an hour. This is where the rebalancing happens: I definitely feel more connected to myself at the end of my walk.
Because the stress and demands of any busy job tend to do the opposite: they take us out of that state of balance. And the reality of modern living is that we probably do not get the rest we need for the reset to happen naturally. But this practice helps me return to my centre. Which means I show up to work grounded, and not fragmented.
So even in a cheflife structured around rotas and orders and organisation, I encourage you to structure your wellbeing practices too. This might not sound like the ideal way to spend your time off. But that discipline pays off. And it demonstrates something that only you can show yourself: that you and your wellbeing matter, chef.
This week I share with you something that I seldom talk about: one of my own practices that supports my work life balance.
Five year ago, I started walking in nature at least once a week – an unfamiliar activity for someone like me who grew up in a desert. I stuck to that simple, one hour a week practice, even during a period when I worked seven days a week (part-time). I did not need any kind of investment to start. I simply picked a resource available to me – in this case, the woods near my home. But the practice required a commitment on my part, a ‘stick-to-it-iveness’ that made me fiercely protect the time I reserved for it each week.
Today I simply cannot measure how much that small decision has brought to my life and my personal growth. Along the way, I even discovered the nature child to actually be one of my archetypes; walking in nature is therefore my homecoming. This is why in all my trainings, I support you in finding what works for you, rather than impose the latest, most trendy practices.
Because on the inside, you already know what you are called to.
Our kitchen culture gives us a blueprint of how to be and act like a chef. But this is done in a way that stamps out our individuality. This aspect serves a purpose: it ensures that we follow instructions and recipes. And take orders to serve the common good of the team.
But this also means that we can struggle to have a clear vision for our lives. What kind of partner or parent we want to be, what quality of life we aspire to, what values we want to uphold. Even those of us with carefully crafted visions can struggle to turn them into reality. Because it takes consistent effort to do that. After all, we work in a very demanding profession.
The pandemic, as much as it took away from our lives, gave us the opportunity to connect with our visions once again. We did things we missed doing. We made time to connect with others. We took care of ourselves, as well as we could, with the resources we had.
How can we sustain these things when we return to work?
Join me for this 2-hour workshop on the 29th of March. You will learn how you can build that vision you hold for your life – even while working full-time in our industry. This training is open to all Hospitality professionals, although we examine work life balance through the lens of the chef culture. You can reserve your place here.
I often get asked if my work is aimed at women in kitchens, but I always have to point out that it is not my calling. Even though I recognise how big the fight is. But right at the outset I was convinced that the diminishing of women and feminine energy adversely affects all of us.
What would it mean for mental health in the industry, for example, if we made room for vulnerability – a quality that holds feminine energy? How much would our teams thrive if we worked with flatter hierarchies, recognising everyone’s contribution? I could go on and on. But the question I will address during Monday’s interactive session is this: how can reconnecting with feminine energy help women in Hospitality enjoy a better work life balance?
British Chef Angela Hartnett talking about work life balance, in an interview with Code Hospitality on the 10th anniversary of her restaurant, Murano.
Clearly, making time for what matters to you is vital, as well as knowing what matters – both topics we cover in our workshops. However, in Monday’s interactive session for women in Hospitality, we take a more nuanced look at work life balance.
I want to highlight how many of the activities that Chef Angela mentions are expressions of feminine energy: grounding, connecting with yourself, connecting with others, collaboration. None of these qualities are held in high regard in the professional kitchen. These might even be viewed as things that get in the way of our work. But you would struggle to have a healthy career or a healthy team without them.
Join me and other women in the industry for Monday’s 30-minute session, to learn more about the value of feminine energy and its place in our kitchens. You can book your place here.
The chef culture makes it clear that only certain qualities belong in a professional kitchen. By challenging the mere presence of women in our brigades, the implication is that we (women in kitchens) should disown some of the qualities that we bring to the table.
Therefore, we not only fight an external battle, but also an internal battle with ourselves. Without realising how much energy we expend in the process. Or how it impacts our work life balance.
This devaluing of feminine energy does not serve anyone in the industry. Many problems facing chefs could be resolved with simpler solutions without this obstacle. But as always, here at Love Letters to Chefs we focus on what we can change in our own lives – without waiting for external circumstances to improve.
This is an invitation to women working in kitchens or any role in Hospitality to join our interactive session on the 8th of March. The purpose of this session is for us to reconnect with the value of our feminine energy. Sign up today, and share with someone you know who might be interested in attending.
As women working in professional kitchens, we are often made conscious of our place in a profession dominated by men, and what it takes to survive and thrive in it. We can, therefore, lose touch with the power that feminine energy holds for us. This is the force that helps us create, as well as connect and ground ourselves.
Love Letters to Chefs is hosting a 30-minute interactive session on International Women’s Day to explore feminine energy and how we can harness it in our quest for a better work life balance. We explore the theme through the lens of the chef culture, but the session is open to all Hospitality professionals.
As we got deeper into the pandemic, I watched as many people in hospitality evolved to finding new ways to work, while countless others had to come to terms with losing their jobs. Especially as chefs, our work is so much a part of our identity that the concept of work-life balance seemed to remain valid even when our world came to a standstill.”
I am excited to share the article I wrote for Culinary Epicenter, looking at what work life balance means for us during the pandemic. You can read the whole piece here.
Continued from Thursday’s post: If setting intentions for better wellbeing is all you can do right now, that is fine, chef. It might feel like a humble place to begin. But this is where you can really experience the power of your will.
Your intention inspires you to make one positive choice: to cook a nourishing meal today or have an honest conversation with someone close to you. Then you make another positive choice. Before you know it, you experience the better standard of health or relationships you wanted.
This is why our 22nd February workshop focuses on the small, positive changes you can make, even as a busy chef. Considering the rhythm of the times we currently find ourselves in, even small changes we bring to our lives can mean big progress.