Chefs Tom Kerridge and Jon Watts discuss food, cooking and mental health

Stacey Turner and Jon Watts.

Stacey Turner and Jon Watts. - Credit: IO2S

Two leading chefs explored the strong links between food and mood as part of an ongoing focus on mental health.

Tom Kerridge, owner of The Hand and Flowers and founder of Pub in the Park, and St Albans' own Jon Watts, who has cooked for the likes of Take That and the Royal Household Golf Club at Windsor Castle, were talking to Stacey Turner, the founder of charity It's OK To Say, earlier this month.

Tom explained: "There is a strong connection between food and mental health. Food can make you feel great and for many, it is a go-to when they are sad. For me, I feel better when I eat well.

"My family have kept me sane throughout the toughest times, spending more time with them and my dogs over lockdown does help put things into perspective. My team, they are my second family, and we help lift each other. It's so humbling to see the hospitality industry, one of the hardest hit by the pandemic, rise together with social initiatives to make things better."

Jon added: "To be honest I don't give much thought to mental health, despite people around me having various issues with their own. Of course, I'm not exempt from my own problems. I tend to stay really busy and it becomes an afterthought.

"Maybe not so much when you do it as a professional, but for a lot of people, cooking at home is their release after a stressful day."

Stacey added: "Cooking is an immersive experience which can be a bit like therapy. But it's helpful to acknowledge if emotions are driving our food choices because it's possible we can over-eat or under-eat if we're going through a touch time, which is a sign we are reaching for comfort or hurting so much that the thought of the comfort of food is unbearable.

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"It is important to find a balance between enjoying the process of cooking and creating, eating for well-being and eating as a treat."