The Mental Health and Wellbeing of Chefs in Commercial Kitchens: An Australasian Study

Robinson, Richard NS
Brenner, Matt
Mooney, Shelagh
Doan, Tin
Steffens, Nik
Lodge, Jason
Item type
Degree name
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Tuwhera, Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand

Following earlier qualitative research on chefs’ mental health and wellbeing from some members of the project team, this Australasian study sought to complement that work but also to quantify aspects of chefs’ wellbeing in the mid and post COVID-19 context. Surveys were disseminated via various channels, including peak culinary associations, educator networks and social media. After data cleansing, 300 completed surveys were retained for analysis: 226 from Australian and 74 from New Zealand / Aotearoa. Highest participation rates were from culinarians with less than three years cooking experience and those with greater than 21 years in professional kitchens. There was a higher education level than expected from respondents, which may be a self-selection bias in terms of willingness to complete a technical survey. Generally, the Australian and New Zealand / Aotearoa economic, social and industrial contexts are similar. Given this and due to the higher number of Australian respondents, we have benchmarked some findings to the Australian general population.

Highlights from the findings showed a high rate of presenteeism, that is ‘working when sick’, which is disconcerting in the mid and post-COVID-19 context. The sample generally reported characteristics associated with poor lifestyle and health habits. These included low consumption of breakfast, low rates of regular to moderate levels of exercise, a less than recommended number of hours slept on a work night, and negative perceptions of their sleep quality. Interestingly, this contrasted with generally high self-reported perceptions of respondents’ own overall health.

Other lifestyle factors did not match respondent’s optimistic views about their health. Higher rates of tobacco smoking than in the Australian and New Zealand / Aotearoa general population were reported. The alcohol consumption rates of the chef respondents were generally in line with those reported for the general population of Australia, with a few exceptions. For instance, nearly 7% of the chefs noted drinking daily in comparison to the rate of 5% for the general population. Similarly, 18% of the chefs reported drinking 1-2 days a week which is slightly higher than the rate of 17% reported for the general population of Australia. Similarly, 15% of the chefs indicated consuming alcohol 3-4 days a week which is higher than the rate of 11% reported for the general population of Australia. Finally, the general population chose to abstain from alcohol at a much higher rate (23%) than the nearly 15% reported by the chef respondents. Contrarily, cannabis use for non-medical purposes amongst the chefs was considerably lower than the general population. Similarly low rates of consumption were reported for a range of other illicit drugs.

The survey included numerous scientific measures for individual wellbeing, organisational factors and outcomes. Although overall individual wellbeing, according to several measures, for the sample was in the lower range of normal, a fifth of the sample showed poorer outcomes which brought the overall rating down. Resilience among chefs was also lower than average.

Publisher's version
Rights statement
Auckland University of Technology (AUT) encourages public access to AUT information and supports the legal use of copyright material in accordance with the Copyright Act 1994 (the Act) and the Privacy Act 1993. Unless otherwise stated, copyright material contained on this site may be in the intellectual property of AUT, a member of staff or third parties. Any commercial exploitation of this material is expressly prohibited without the written permission of the owner.