El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain, which holds three Michelin stars and is a two-time winner of the The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, is not just leading the way when it comes to gastronomy. It also employs a staff therapist.
As The New York Times reports, psychologist Imma Puig travels to the restaurant once a week on Tuesdays to hold group sessions with the 60 strong staff, as well as with the Roca brothers themselves. She holds a session with a different group each week, often mixing back and front of house.
In such a precise environment, tensions are bound to run high, and the sessions are designed to get everything out in the open, reducing stress, as well as improving relations between kitchen and dining room.
“We all have to move on from a time when the kitchen was about pure discipline and toughness, sometimes almost bordering on mistreatment,” says Joan Roca. “We’re all obsessed about anything going wrong with our kitchen equipment, but somehow don’t always pay so much attention to the human machinery.”
“The kitchen has its own tensions and pace, but we are the ones looking after the clients,” says the maître d’hôtel, Eric Oliu.
Paig even suggests this could have an effect on the food: “A dish that has been cooked under tension and in a bad mood will certainly taste different,” she says.
Discussions around mental health in the industry are becoming more and more commonplace. Chef and restaurateur Daniel Patterson recently opened up about his battle with depression, while writer Kat Kinsman set out her belief that if the kitchen profession doesn’t change, chefs will continue to die in this presentation at Mad5 in Copenhagen.