Are 4/10s the New (Healthier) Normal? Maybe.

By Sean Kenniff | Alexa Bendek


Sean Kenniff
Alexa Bendek
Chef Alex Baker of Yves
Chef Alex Baker of Yves

During an event last year, Alex Baker sat with a group of fellow chefs relaxing at Red Rocks Park outside Denver. While enjoying the vistas and chatter, the conversation turned serious. The chefs began to open up about mental and physical health issues and discuss ways to keep their cooks and themselves happy. (You probably weren’t there, but this exchange likely sounds familiar.) “One chef mentioned that his cooks were on 4/10s and that they were happier,” says Baker, who is 30 and has nearly a decade of experience in the industry.

Don’t know what 4/10s are? It’s a work schedule with four (usually) consecutive 10-hour days on and three days off . Besides hospitality, 4/10s have been implemented in state and local governments, schools, as well as in sales, IT, medical, and other industries.

Baker is chef of Yves, a hyper-seasonal restaurant with a homey French backbone. She also oversees two other spots in Restaurateur Matt Abramcyk’s Neighborhood Projects hospitality group—A Summer Day CafĂ© and a forthcoming project in Brooklyn. She works A LOT, and since being in three places at once and human cloning are impossible, Baker was looking for a way to change her schedule to accommodate her new and growing responsibilities—all without burning out. “There’s so much depression and lack of concern for good health in this industry. It’s a shame that working 70 hours a week is regular, and if you don’t work at least that, then you feel guilty. That is not normal. What can we do to change what is normal for chefs?” she says.

Switching to four-day work weeks with 10-hour shifts sounded appealing. But would it work? So far, yes.

“I was working 60 hours just [at Yves], five days a week. Now I pick and choose where I need to be, the hours I’ll work there, and pick what days I have off ,” says Baker, who keeps to 10 hours as often as she can. Yves is a 50-seater with extra seats in summer when covers peak at around 200.

Baker’s staff at Yves is usually rocking and rolling at a dozen, including a sous chef, junior sous, line cooks, prep cooks, a butcher, and three dishwashers. Implementation of the 4/10 schedule has been well received. “The three-day ‘weekend’ allows for rejuvenation, more free time, or a second job [which some of my staff has opted for],” says Baker. “We’ve eliminated morning and night teams in favor of staggering the 10-hour shifts throughout the day. There is less overlap, fewer bodies in the kitchen at a given time without sacrificing efficiency and productivity.”

When the alternative is 70-plus hours a week and maybe a day off here and there, 4/10s seem worth a try, especially when your body, mind, and staff are at stake. 

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