For the professional chef, their career and livelihood rely on a steady stream of creativity. Not only are chefs responsible for keeping up with the latest trends and delivering fresh new food ideas, they also manage a fast-paced kitchen. We spoke with the ACAC’s chef faculty to find out how they avoid burnout as a chef and keep their creative juices flowing.
How to avoid burnout as a chef
Connect with inspiring sources
“I keep my creativity by reading magazines or using online media,” says Chef Martin Try. “I subscribed to some YouTube channels to follow food/cooking news.”
Besides keeping an eye on what other chefs are doing in the culinary arts, Chef Try also finds inspiration by getting out of the kitchen.
“Walking through markets inspires me very much as well,” he says. “Seeing all those products and smelling different things gives me new ideas and makes me go straight back to the kitchen to try it out.”
Testing the limits
Chef Kim Matang stays inspired by testing new ways of doing things. “Whether it’s cooking or teaching, I try to step out of my comfort zone and not repeat doing the same things too much. Trying new ways automatically increases your creativity,” he says.
Inspiration in unsuspecting places
“I love to read old cooking books which are almost forgotten and not really used anymore,” says Chef Ngeth Roues, ACAC’s newest pastry and bakery chef faculty. “Then, I make my own mix by taking some of those techniques and applying them to the new modern style. I also like to combine different techniques from different countries.”
Managing stress in the kitchen
There is no way around it, the restaurant industry is fast-paced and hectic. Chefs are responsible for managing the professional kitchen and staff, so stress can be part of the job.
Chef Matang finds the very act of creating and pushing outside of his comfort zone, part of the solution. Problem-solving, being resourceful and finding different ways to do things, is key to managing stress.
“Creativity is actually also part of not getting a burnout,” he says. “Something went wrong? Ok, no problem, find another way to make this meal excellent,” Chef Matang says. “They delivered the wrong ingredient? Use another one and make it even better than expected. And if nothing helps stay by side for a minute and take a deep breath.”
Chef Ngeth Roues’ recommendation is to relax.
“I would recommend to not make yourself crazy about what you’re doing or what gets wrong,” he says. “Just try to continue staying concentrated and focused, take your breaks when time allows it and don’t get stressed by the sometimes very rough tone in the kitchen. It is never personal. And rely on teamwork. You are not the one who has to everything alone.”
Chef Martin Try knows how stressful the kitchen environment can be.
“It is true that in the kitchen you can experience very stressful moments which might make you feel like losing your mind,” he says. “In this moments, it is important to step out for a short time. It might look like it isn’t the right moment to go to the fresh air while things are burning, but only one minute can help you to come down and continue to concentrate and with new energy.”
Keeping things interesting
For Chef Ngeth Roues, who teaches Bakery and Pastry at the ACAC, baking pastries is a constant source of creativity. “Bakery is something very unpredictable so it never gets boring,” he says.
Chef Martin Try fuses news ways of cooking with his own ideas which keep his career stimulating.
“Food can never be boring,” he says. “There are always new trends or combinations you can try out. I try to cook things I saw on the TV but then I do it in my way and I add my own ideas. I never get bored like this.”
Chef Matang’s approach is to test the limits.
“I step out of my comfort zone and try out new things,” he says. “That way it always is interesting.”
Where do you go for inspiration in your career?