A (Top) Chef’s Perspective on Mental Health & Wellbeing at Work
Chef Trevor Bird is initiating a much needed dialogue around the problem of mental health in the hospitality industry.
Trevor Bird’s list of achievements is impressive, likely reflecting the aspirations of many hospitality professionals currently slogging through a 14 hour shift, scarfing down a cold plate of tonight’s special.
Since opening his first business in 2012, a wildly successful Vancouver restaurant called Fable Kitchen, Trevor has opened a second restaurant, founded multiple businesses including a high quality meat delivery service, a catering company, and a brand of preserves, and was the runner up on Season 2 of Top Chef Canada.
His passion for the business of food is undeniable, yet despite being at the height of his career, Trevor describes having felt defeated and disconnected from himself and life outside of work — a feeling that surely rings true for many hospitality industry professionals for whom 6 day work weeks and 18 hour days are the norm while drugs and alcohol fuel a much needed release at the end of a shift.
Through his own efforts to reconnect with himself, Trevor developed a deep interest in personal development and psychology. It all led to a tipping point when he decided that supporting others in realizing their own authenticity is what he wanted to dedicate the rest of his life to. As of October 16th, 2021, he sold all of his businesses to dedicate himself to this new journey.
Recently, we were lucky enough to sit in on a webinar hosted by Trevor in partnership with BC’s Hub for Mental Health. Entitled Mental health & Wellbeing at Work – A (Top) Chef’s Perspective, it gave us a glimpse into the important work that Trevor does helping people to support their own mental health and wellbeing amongst the pressures and demands of the hospitality industry.
“The intention for this session is to provide you the tools to better understand how you can relate to the industry and to your job and resources that you can reach out to to help you on your mental health journey, open a conversation around mental health, and create a community” says Trevor as he leads into the session.
It began with breathwork, a practice Trevor hails as one of the most important parts of his day. As he led the meditation, the gallery of videos on Zoom featured closed eyes and the rhythmic rise and fall of shoulders in unison, and an energetic release and easing of tension flowed through the virtual crowd.
The discussion that followed was steeped in wisdom, support, and the kind of deep understanding that could only flow from first hand experience of the hospitality industry. At one point Trevor pondered, “what’s an 8-hour day? That’s part-time work in our industry”, to which a participant jokingly responded in the chat, “half day chef.”
Trevor highlighted the number of hospitality workers who do not feel safe talking about their mental health at work and who have experienced at least one mental health crisis in their careers. Though the numbers were a shocking wake up call to the depth of the mental health crisis in the hospitality industry, Trevor makes the empowering claim: “Shifting the industry doesn’t come from higher ups, but it comes from ground level. It comes from people like me and you setting boundaries, expressing what they need.”
In providing hospitality workers the tools and support they need to acknowledge their emotions, learn about their own triggers, and create meaningful boundaries, Chef Trevor Bird is actively creating communities and starting a dialogue around the mental health conversations that have been so severely lacking in our industry for many years.