7 Reasons Why Chefs Quit

As the famous saying goes, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen!” This article is a look at the 7 reasons chefs quit their job.

Being a chef is a notoriously transient trade and chefs move between different workplaces a lot. Any chef who has worked in the same kitchen for more than 3 years is considered a Veteran! But why do chefs stop working in kitchens?

I’ll cover each point in detail below but if you just require the quick answer;

The main reasons why chefs quit their job are;

  • Pressure
  • Long working hours
  • Too much discipline
  • A better job offer
  • To Travel
  • Starting their own restaurant
  • Re-training

Some of these reasons are spur of the moment walkout reasons (chefs are notorious for walking out of jobs without giving notice) and some of these are well thought out master plans.

Without further ado let’s take a look at why chefs quit their job.

Chefs Have A Lot Of Pressure

Perhaps the biggest factor in why chefs quit and why most walk out of their job, is pressure. A busy kitchen during an evening service can be incredibly stressful.

It’s unfortunate that when things start going wrong they usually snowball, resulting in a tough day at the office for everyone.

At the start of my career, I used to feel the pressure and take a bad service to heart. However, as I got more experienced I learned to deal with the highs and lows a lot easier.

Don’t get too high and don’t get too low, was the advice given to me by my first Head ChefOpens in a new tab. and it stood me in good stead throughout my career.

Some chefs unfortunately never manage to get a firm grip on handling the pressure and this leads them to quit straight after a bad service.

Long Working Hours Are Common For Chefs

Long working days are the norm in the catering industry. Also, due to rota changes, a chef may find themselves working 10 days in a row before their next day off. This culmination of a hundred hours or more in a weekOpens in a new tab. inevitably leads to feelings of resentment.

On lots of occasions, a chef will be expected to take a shorter break (or not take a break at all) if they need to prepare for the evening service.

These long hours and short or no breaks can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. I have seen many chefs quit at this point and they decided that a career in that particular kitchen is not for them. If that’s you and you are thinking of changing your career, online learning environments such as learning24/7 (linked hereOpens in a new tab.), are great places to get basic certificates at cheap prices helping to get our foot in the door of a new industry!

I personally had two chef friends decide on the same day, that returning to the kitchen for the evening shift was something they couldn’t do! (no hard feelings from me, it’s just the way it goes sometimes.)

Kitchens Have High Levels Of Discipline

Discipline is an integral part of kitchen life. The whole kitchen is set up in a rank structured wayOpens in a new tab. so that everyone knows where their place is within that structure.

This is a vital way to run a successful professional kitchen and the fact that it works is demonstrated by the worldwide adoption of this system.

However, with discipline and hierarchy comes inevitable disputes about whether or not a ‘telling off’ was warranted or in proportion to the offence.

Everyone has seen the pictures of Gordon RamseyOpens in a new tab. screaming into chefs’ faces and I’m personally not sure I could stand there and take that (if I felt it was unfair). It’s up to each chef to decide at the time if this is fair and constructive or unnecessary.


Many chefs quit when they feel that high discipline crossed the line.

I wrote a whole article covering chefs shouting and the reality of this in modern kitchens which I will link hereOpens in a new tab., definitely worth a look.

There Are A Lot Of Career Opportunities For Chefs

Far from unique to chefs, but an important reason nonetheless; Many chefs quit because they have secured a better job elsewhere.

As mentioned earlier chefs are very transient and it’s common practice to work in lots of different kitchensOpens in a new tab. to gain as much experience as possible.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that chefs that stay in the same kitchen for too long (Head chefs excluded) actually find it damaging to their future career prospects.

A better job offer can be something like;

  • One that has better working hours
  • Higher pay
  • The chance to work for a great chef and gain valuable experience

Or even a combination of all three!

Chefs Get To Do A Lot Of Travelling

Part of a chef’s desire to learn as much as they can usually take them travelling to different parts of the world to discover new cuisine. This is a huge factor why many people choose to become chefs.

Once you become a qualified chef you can quit your job and use those skills to get a job in any country in the world.

As well as experiencing different cultures and cuisine types when they return they are highly desirable to kitchens at home, due to the experience they have gained.

I wrote a whole article about the different places a chef can choose to work!Opens in a new tab.

Chefs Often Start Their Own Restaurant Business

Quitting to start your own restaurant is a huge achievement for any chef.

Catering is a friendly industry and there is a strong camaraderie among chefs from all the local restaurants. When a chef quits to start his or her own venture it is met with approval by everyone.

The phone calls then usually start and the mission to poach the best chefs begins! (This can strain local relationships but is still an accepted part of the industry.)

Chefs Quit Working In Kitchens To Retrain

The final main reason chefs quit is to retrain.

The long hours and intensiveness of the industry take their toll on some chefs over time. I decide to quit being a chef and to retrain as I did not want to be doing the long working hours later in life.

There are lots of retraining opportunities available. In my chef career change experience, employers admire the fact that you can bring a wide number of skills to your new role that was learnt in the kitchen, such as teamwork, calmness under pressure, communication skills, and work ethic to name just a few. As mentioned earlier, in my opinion, sites like learning24/7 Opens in a new tab.help learn new skills without breaking the bank!

To Sum Up

So that’s the 7 main reasons why chefs quit. As you can see some of them are spur of the moment “I’ve had enough” decisions and others are more calculated.

If you are beginning a chef career Opens in a new tab.my advice would be that quitting without giving notice is not a great thing to do. It may be difficult to calm yourself down at the time but is definitely worth doing.

The catering industry is a close-knit community. Leaving on bad terms with one kitchen is best avoided where possible so that you avoid getting a bad reputation. Add to that the fact that a lot of chef jobs only require one weeks’ notice to leave, and leaving on good terms becomes a lot easier.

Dave Nicholas

Having spent around 10 years working as a qualified chef in high end restaurants, my mission is to use this experience to help others as they begin their career in catering!

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