Do chefs shout a lot? Picture a chef working hard during a busy service and chances are you’re picturing a Gordon Ramsey type hurling insults at the poor chefs trying their best to get the dishes prepared on time. But why do chefs swear so much?
I dare say if you asked the general public to name three things they associate with chefs then “Angry” and “Swearing” would more than likely be top of the list.
But why is this? Do chefs shout a lot? or is it an outdated stereotype cultivated by celebrity chefs?
I’ll use my experience as a chef to look at this topic in detail below, but I’ll add a brief summary here for those who want the short answer;
My experience of being a chef is that the majority of us don’t shout and swear a lot. Yes there are times when we need to raise our voice, but generally service is conducted in a quiet manor. Of course some chefs are are angrier than others.
This video demonstrates legendary angry chef Marco Pierre White who has mellowed as he’s aged but still has the famous fiery look in his eyes!
Do Chefs Shout and Swear A Lot?
As you can see from the snippet above, the reality is that chefs don’t actually go around shouting and swearing all of the time. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve certainly been on the receiving end of a few hairdryers in my time, but this is not the everyday norm.
There are several good reasons why shouting and swearing isn’t common place;
- There is a great team atmosphere among chefs including the Head chef. Picture any work place, the boss is not some high up figure that you never see, they are someone you engage with on a daily basis. Sure, they lay down the law sometimes, but generally speaking you become work friends and chat about regular things together.
- Shouting and swearing all the time would loose its effectiveness as well as being exhausting. Do you remember that teacher at school that used to always be grumpy and shouting at the class?, I’m willing to bet you learnt to simply tune them out (as well as loosing respect for them). Shouting is not a great way to communicate long term. Bear in mind an evening service lasts around 4 hours each day!
- Chefs would simply leave. Being a chef is a very transient trade as there are usually lots of restaurants around looking for kitchen staff. If the Head Chef was known to be very grumpy they would really struggle to attract new staff and keep them. (Chefs are notorious for walking out when pushed to far).
The exception to the final point may be restaurants with 2-3 Michelin Stars as there simply isn’t enough of them. This would encourage chefs to tolerate more verbal abuse as their options are rather limited.
It’s worth pointing out at this point that there is absolutely a culture of bad language in kitchen. The F word is used in a variety of imaginative ways to describe all sorts of subjects. However, this is not in the angry sense of shouting and swearing and done in a lighter hearted manor as part of the kitchen culture.
Does the Kitchen Make A Difference To the Amount of Swearing?
Another way to word this would be, does the standard of the food being produced have an effect on the amount of swearing and shouting?
The answer to this from my own experiences and chatting with lots of my friends in the industry is absolutely – yes
The higher the standard of food being produced the more professional the kitchen becomes and the less swearing and shouting there is. In fact many high end kitchens operate a silence during service rule so that the only talking being done is what is relevant to the dishes being produced.
Some of the reasons as to why this is the case are as follows;
- Higher standard kitchens attract higher standard chefs with more experience. This means they are better at cooking the dishes and get flustered less easily. The affect is that swearing and shouting is rarely necessary.
- Higher standard restaurants have experienced waiters and waitresses. These tend to be better at controlling the order flow into the kitchen preventing bottle necks and unnecessary pressure on the chefs.
- Lower standard kitchens (particularly chain restaurants) rely on huge volume being done by as smaller number of staff as possible. This inevitably leads to an incredibly rushed and pressured kitchen resulting in more potential for mistakes and fraught tempers.
I did touch on earlier that if a restaurant has a great reputation and is unrivalled this may be an exception but certainly not in all cases.
If you work at a three Michelin star restaurant you’re going to think twice before leaving so the Head Chefs complaints may be more cutting. However, again these are very professional places and anyone who has a job there is serious about producing fine cuisine. (The cost of eating at a Michelin star restaurant)
Is Swearing and Shouting in Kitchens Getting Worse?
From my experience and the research I have done for this article the answer to this is no;
Shouting and swearing in kitchens has become less common. The increase in the number of restaurants serving high quality food has given chefs more options about who they choose to work for.
Kitchens have also become more professional over the last 40 years in an attempt to attract more young people into a career as a chef. (A brief look back on my own chef career may be useful to readers here)
If you have read Gordon Ramsey’s biography you’ll know that shouting and swearing was the norm in the industry 40 or 50 years ago. Thankfully these days have passed. Kitchens have become professional work places that attract hard working people, who expect to be treated fairly.
There are times when chefs will receive a bollocking (for want of a better word) from the Head Chef. This is sometimes necessary to navigate a whole team through a busy and stressful service.
Imagine a Head Chef is like the captain having to navigate the kitchen through a rough time. If everyone just did their own thing it would be a disaster for everyone.
To Sum Up
If you are considering starting a career as a chef but are worried that you may be subject to daily barrages then fear not. This is generally a myth.
There are times when some shouting or swearing will head your way but these aren’t common and are generally fair. A great thing about being a chef is the camaraderie. A drink after work usually heals any resentment you may feel at the time.
One thing to remember at all times though is that under no circumstances should there be any bullying or insults that cross the line. Any instance of any racism, sexism or any other bullying behavior is completely unacceptable and not part of the job. In these cases you should report the chef instantly and leave to find a better job if the matter isn’t dealt with firmly.
Overall being a chef is not like the image portrayed by the likes of Gordon Ramsey on Hell’s Kitchen. There is no chef shouting and swearing at everyone for hours on end each night.
I hope you found this article useful.
We have lots of other great articles on Chefword.com so please take some time to look around and learn everything there is to know about a career as a chef!
With 10 years experience as a professional chef my mission is to provide impartial advice for those wishing to join the catering industry