57 – Mental Illness and the Restaurant Industry

Mental Illness and the Restaurant industry

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The Restaurant industry is often very tough. Mental illness is not a popular topic of conversation in this industry, but maybe we should start talking about it and be a part of the solution.

Today, we interview Chef Shaun Quade from Restaurant Lume, and how his journey with mental illness has interacted with his journey to opening Australia’s most creative Restaurant.

This is an important subject for anyone who is traveling with mental illness issues (which is a lot of us), and also really important for anyone working with or employing people with mental health issues. The outcome of mental illness can be incredibly tragic, so this is a very important topic to talk about.

The impact on mental health is exacerbated in the Restaurant industry because of a lot of the factors particular of hospitality, the fast-paced work environment, the incredibly high standards that Restaurants strive to attain and maintain. For owners, these pressures are multiplied by the pressures of running a business, payroll, finance issues, and managing people.  We talk about the impact that review platforms have in some of the issues that are created by some of the reviews that are written about Restaurants. It is a tough industry, but mental illness is hardly talked about primarily due to its stigma.

Chef Quade has worked at a number of highly successful restaurants in the country and has used his work in the kitchen as a, kind of, therapy that has helped him. He has also accepted that his mind works differently, compared to other people’s, and we discuss how this accentuates his creative talent.

Everyone has a different road to travel, and Chef Quade’s is just one. But I think that there is something for everyone to help them get a better understanding of what it can be like living with mental illness as well as for those in a team environment.

Please listen to this podcast and have a think about how we can all work together to destigmatise mental illness and help out our mates struggling with mental illness.

A massive thank you to Chef Quade for sharing his story.  It is a difficult topic to talk about, particularly if it is your story. Chef Quade has fearlessly shared his story as a part of an effort to help others out. Thank you!

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Podcast Transcript

Secret Sauce episode 57 – Mental illness and the Restaurant Industry

JAMES ELING: Hey everyone, today’s podcast is going to be a little bit different to what we normally do. We’re not going to be talking about Facebook marketing. We’re not going to be talking about building awesome websites or building your database. We’re going to be talking about mental illness and we’re going to talk about mental illness for a couple reasons. One it’s a conversation that I think that needs to be had a lot more often in the restaurant industry. There is an incredible amount of stress for everyone working in the restaurant industry. I think that this compounded with fairly high incidents of mental illness throughout the general population can mean that people can really exacerbate the effects of mental illness for people who are working in the restaurant industry.  I want to talk about it because it sort of aligns with our BHAG (Big, Hairy Audacious Goal), which is to make a meaningful difference in people’s lives. For us that means we want to help restaurant owners to fulfill their dream to have the restaurant that they had, the dream that they had when they started their restaurant. Because it is so tough because profitability is such an issue, the hours alone there’s an incredible amount of stress.

A sad story and the mental illness stigma

A lot of people have forgotten what that dream was and the pressure really does get to some people. This was really brought home to me a few years ago now. I was going through some data for work being a data analytics company on a Saturday night.  I was sitting on the couch while my wife was watching TV and I was going through some data from some of our customers looking at what works and what doesn’t. I noticed one of our customers was getting some traffic from a website that I hadn’t heard of before. I had a look and it was one of those referral sites. I emailed them for a little bit of information. This was at 10 o’clock on a Saturday night. And someone emailed me back and I emailed him and said you must be the owner.  He said, “Yeah, I am.” He goes, “How did you find out about us?” I said, “Oh, we have a mutual customer.” I mentioned the restaurant and he goes, “Ah, yeah,” and he said, “You know they’re dead, don’t you?”

Well, he emailed back, “You know they’re dead.” And I was like, “No!” What had happened was, it was a husband and wife team which was so common in restaurants both working towards to fulfill their goal and the pressure and stress of running their restaurant had gotten so much that they’d both committed suicide. They left two grownup children, their business partner. It was a really big shock. I’d know that there’d some profitability struggles. I know that there’d been some issues, with reviews, fake reviews. really quite scathing reviews. Which was really quite distressing. I’d eaten at the restaurant. I’d met the owner it was a great restaurant and he did a great job. The chef at the back did a great job. I thought they provided a really good experience for what they were trying to achieve. You read some of the reviews that were there and it was like you would never say that to someone’s face. Why would you write that review? Now, I don’t know what it was that pushed them over. There were difficulties in running it.   There was probably staffing issues I guess because that seems to be a permanent issue in the restaurant industry for a lot of people.

Fake reviews or scathing reviews which are really quite unfounded. These are the kind of pressures that people face and I think when you look at how hard the restaurant industry is then you’ll layer, they say one third of people are going to have an experience with men who are dishonest in in their life. Put those two things together and it really is difficult and bleak situations for some people. So, when I have these conversations hopefully we can destigmatise this a bit. Lastly, and I think the most important reason that we’re doing this podcast is that we’ve got a really courageous chef who’s prepared to share his journey as a chef and how it is been accompanied with his journey with mental illness. I think It is a really important story to be told.

Today we’re going to be talking to Chef Shaun Quade from Restaurant Lume. He talks about his battles with mental illness.  The therapy that he has found within being a chef and how that has helped him. How he dealt with the interpersonal relationships, in working in a lot of very high stress kitchens that he’s worked in. Also, one of the things that I find really fascinating, his approach to mental illness. And the other side of mental illness which sometimes people talk about it but it happens so rarely. This is the little spark that has helped Chef Quade to get to where he is. Let’s get into it, let’s have a listen what Chef Quade’s got to say about his journey with mental illness.

Meet Chef Shaun Quade of Restaurant Lume

James:  Welcome to the show, Shaun.

Chef Shaun Quade: Thank you, thank you for having me James.

James: Do you want to tell us a little bit about who you are and your story?

Shaun: I am the Chef owner of Lume Restaurant in South Melbourne, Australia. We’ve been open for approximately two years now, just a little bit over two years. We’re kind of known for doing contemporary style, a tasting menu using native ingredients and using a lot of different techniques and kind of innovating techniques as well. That’s a bit of a background of the restaurant. And myself, I’ve been a chef since 2001. I grew up in Toowoomba in Queensland. Moved out of there, I went to Quay. I went to Quay for a little while. I moved down to Melbourne. I worked at Royal Mail Hotel with Dan Hunter for a couple of years. I moved back to Sydney to work with James Viles at Biota when he was opening there so that was another 2 years. Lots of A little different things in between. Did a bit of consulting work, a little bit of just pure pastry work. Patisserie and baking and all that sort of thing and that kind of led me to the path of opening Lume in 2015.

James: Which has gone really well. It’s now, it’s got a reputation as being one of the most innovative restaurants in the country.

Shaun: Yeah, we tried. I think, we worked quite hard for it. It’s really interesting to me that we built up that reputation and that’s a big thing to me. I think, what do people think Lume or when people tell them what happened.

Chef Quade’s backstory on mental illness

James: So, what is your relationship then with mental health?

Shaun: My relationship, say we’ve had a bit of a rocky past when I was in my late teens I wasn’t doing so well. Basically, went to the doctor and he, I guess, growing up in Toowoomba there’s not a huge kind of network of psychiatrist and therapists than there is in major cities. So, I just went to my GP (General Practitioner) and he diagnosed me with depression and gave me Zoloft, which is an antidepressant, and didn’t really tell me much about it. I tried to do my research but I was feeling low like you can’t find pretty much to both sides of the argument so it wasn’t very helpful. Yeah, I started taking Zoloft and it didn’t really work it wasn’t the right thing for me to take. So, I just stopped taking it. I kinda swore off going to doctors for that particular symptom. Pretty much throughout my twenties I basically just struggled with depression, anxiety, OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). Which I didn’t know really what they were at that time as you get older you learn a few things and you talk to different people. It’s been a constant threat in my life of just learning how to deal with mental health without really, in my twenties especially doing anything about it because no one really talks about it especially in our industry. It wasn’t until I was 29, I think or 30, I was kind of, in a pretty bad place. I was not enjoying work. I just was really, really, really struggling, suicidal all that’s a thing, just really not in a good place. Forced myself to go and see a GP and he referred me to a psychiatrist and kind of started the ball rolling again. Ended up being re-diagnosed as being Bipolar too. And put on to some new medication which was again not the right one for me.

So, I went through three different types of medication just to find the right thing to fit my system and my mental makeup. Slowly but surely kind of dragged myself out of that grey wasteland that many people are familiar with. With the help of some people I managed to get back on my feet. That pretty much brings us to today. Actually, as of today I’m not on any medication I decided to not take anymore. I’ve done a lot of work just figuring out how I work. How my head works and how I relate to people and all that sort of thing. Today I feel stronger than I ever have since I was a little kid.  So that’s pretty much my relationship with mental health in a nutshell.

James: It’s interesting now that you’re off medication. That’s awesome. It sort of started before you were in the restaurant industry then, is that right?

Shaun: Yes. Yeah, that is correct.

Chef Shaun Quade: My job, my therapy, my mental illness

James:  And you’ve worked in some … a lot of high end restaurants where there’s a significant amount of pressure. How did that sort of play out as you sort of trying to work out what it was going on in your head? How did you find working in the restaurant industry, because it is a tough industry, there’s a lot of pressure?

Shaun:  Yeah, there is a lot of pressure. I think the interesting thing with, I guess with me in particular. I put a lot of pressure on myself to do well so I think working in all these high end kitchens where you have all the people putting pressure on you and it was never as much pressure as i was putting on myself to achieve to do well. So that is kind of one way of dealing with it. the other way of dealing with it was just immersing myself into my job so that was my medication. And just in hindsight it actually helped in a lot of ways. An interesting point I was watching a BBC documentary where it was just a pretty general documentary on mental health.

They asked all the people that they’re interviewing, if you had the choice would you change your mental makeup or do you just take all your mental health away? And every single one of them said no. So, I found that quite interesting because it’s such a horrible thing what it does. I guess like any sane person you may have often been through something not great but then you have something happen to them, that’s kind of a way to move on. It’s that sink or swim mentality on the fly. You either just stop and shut down or you get on with it. I chose to get on with it, and just immerse myself into the work and the kitchens and learning, learning and learning just really being obsessive about it. That kept my head busy it was not perfect it was not a perfect solution but I guess it worked for me. I’m not saying it will work for other people but I guess that’s how I got through.

It was pretty much 10 years essentially no medication and just trying to figure things out for myself so being in that kitchen environment where everything was very structured and routine driven. It was actually quite good.  I guess, I mean I’ve never been in the military but  just from talking, it’s very similar in the way that how there’s a hierarchy and there’s routine and every day you have to do the same thing and has precision and things expected of you every day. That was actually quite good for keeping me on the straight and narrow sort of speak. That’s how I dealt with it.

James:  How long did it take from you in your late twenties when you sort of hit rock bottom, how long did it take for you to sort of turn the ship around, how long were you working through that before you could start to see that things were improving and you were on the up and up?

Shaun: It was a good couple of years. I’d say about two and a half years for me, just shutting down, I was actually working. I was doing the night shift. I was baking, baking every night by myself just listening to music and podcasts. I had no contact with anyone which was not a great situation to be in when you’re in that mindset. So, going from that to actually being back on my feet and feeling like I can really push myself again and I guess contribute to society. I mean, it’s quite hard when you’re in that mindset and thinking about anything else but yourself let alone hold down a stressful job or have other people relying on you. You can’t even comprehend that sort of thing and just basically just getting through day to day. Sleeping and it’s like, what am I going to eat next just dealing with things minute to minute. That what it feels like. if we can turn our fears to get to some sort of normality or a routine.

James: That’s a long road, isn’t it?

Shaun: Yeah, it is long and it’s not easy as well. It’s impossible to explain in words sometimes just how having depression, anxiety particularly. It’s really, really hard to explain to people what it feels like until you’ve actually experienced it. Some people can’t deal with it and some people do. I think more people would be able to deal with it if they’re actually talked about it, all because 1 in 3 people have mental health to sort out. it’s something we never talk about especially when it comes to your work colleagues and in business it’s seen as, it’s still seen as a sign of weakness. I guess, I can only go on my experience. I don’t think I’d be as successful as I am today if I didn’t have mental health issues.

That’s the part I’m not saying it’s been easy that’s just how it is. It’s made me very driven. I think I’ve managed to turn it on its head and actually use it. Use it as a positive thing, quite a powerful thing. It’s a kind of drug to myself, my job, my career slowly. Again, as I said before it’s not for everyone. Doing that sort of thing, I mean, that’s what makes us such a difficult base to deal with because every single person has something unique to them. There’s no set medications for people, there’s no set treatment to people. If you have to, it’s such a long journey, a process sometimes to actually treat people and again just in mine since a lot of medications I’ve tried and gone through and different therapists. So many therapists because you have to be able to relate to them and talk to them and I’ve been up to them otherwise it doesn’t work.

It’s a long drawn-out process but, again, it’s either sink or swim. You either go through it and do it and do the work and commit yourself to it otherwise you just can’t go on. I think the people who feel that they can’t go on if they had support if more people talked about it and they felt like they could relate to other people who are going through something similar. Were exactly the same thing there will be a lot more people that will be much, much better off. I think that brings us to today, it’s something that people are starting to talk about when there’s a lot of great organisations around doing some amazing work but in general just in how we perceive it in our general society, even in pop culture, TV shows, it’s still seen as, its still has this horrible stigma around it. All that has to change, its no different from someone having diabetes or something that is totally treatable but doesn’t have this horrible stigma around it like someone with diabetes who could never be a CEO. That’s harsh, I mean of course someone can do that. It just needs to be talked about. It’s 2017, I think we just need to get on with it and realize that it’s serious, and stop sweeping it under the rug, under the rug so to speak

James: I think that’s a really good point I was reading an article in the ——-  Review last week and there was a CEO, an ex-CEO he’s retired now. And he said now that he’s retired he feels that he can talk about his battle with depression because he had a duty to shareholders and the board and he was sure that they would’ve perceived that he was unable to do his job and he was quite successful in his job. Yeah!

Shaun: That’s a really good point, a really good point I think.  Again, that statistic, 1 in 3 people. I mean you just look at 3 of your work colleagues. How many different people work in an office or wherever? We’re getting back to hospitality, working in a restaurant. We have 15 staff, restaurants would have around 10 staff or 15 staff or even more so. How many of those people are struggling can we sit down and talk about it? Is it something you have to deal with by yourself?  That to me is just insane, it’s so outdated. It’s such an outdated state of mind. To be in and make a change.

Mental Illness: My secret

James: What was the reaction of your peers when you were going through that, that dark period? Obviously it was highly risky for you because you were working nights and alone. What about the time when you were interacting with other people in the business? What was their perception of you, did they know you were in a dark place or were you able to hide that from them?

Shaun: Actually, no one knew at all. There’s a very specific few people that have know throughout my career just people I trust and have been close to that I feel that I can talk to. No one knew or anything like that. I think people get really adept at hiding things and acting so to speak. I mean even today like ah, I should think I’m quite good at just put on this persona. I think people with a trained eye are going to see, see the real story behind the mask but to the average person just day to day dealing with people, I can very, very easily come across just very normal and having a great time, having fun just loving life that’s the thing when sometimes it’s far from the truth see. You do become very adept at putting on a mask and putting on a brave face, a happy face sort of speak. The unfortunate thing is not til something horrible happens that someone commits suicide or someone does something that’s a direct cause from their mental health that they haven’t dealt with properly.

More of it, it’s when celebrities, Robin Williams, perfect example, one of the funniest people in the world, loved by everyone, pretty much universally. He just decided to take his own life because he must have been really just struggling and that’s a guy with a family, he’s got kids and universally loved by everyone. And I think that’s a perfect example of how freaking  intense depression, anxiety in particular can be because there’s a guy that’s had an amazing career is loved by everyone, has money, has a family, has kids that just couldn’t handle being alive anymore. So, it’s something that, I mean, so many, so many articles written about him in particular because he was such a funny guy.  People looking at little signs throughout his career and just little signs in interviews where it’s a mask, it’s a way of projecting that everything is okay. It’s almost like playing an offensive game, going out there and putting on your best face sort of speak and not letting anyone in. That’s a very good example that everyone would know.

Mental illness stigma gets worse and society bears part of the blame

James: What are some of the practices that you’ve seen in kitchens that you’ve worked in that exacerbates some of these issues?

Shaun: Every kitchen is different but kitchens in general specially a decade ago or even in the 80’s or 90’s they’re quite tough places. Very, very stressful there’s a lot of pressure on you and not particularly supportive places either. Not supportive environments, you may have been constantly yelled at or in some cases physically abused. It’s literally the worst situation you can be in if you’re feeling quite mentally fragile. I think, again today a lot of that is changing. The days of the screaming chef throwing pots and pans around the kitchen kicking customers out of the restaurant because they asked for salt and all that sort of thing. That doesn’t exist anymore. Those people are dinosaurs.  I think that’s a good thing because that’s just being smart about how you deal with pressure and how you deal with the constant day to day critiquing. Which is another quite interesting point that it’s not exclusive to hospitality but it’s definitely something that people struggle to deal with is the constant criticism especially with everyone having access to a blog or to Zomato or Trip Advisor all those different platforms.

It’s quite a unique industry because you’re creating something, it’s a creative industry. It’s quite a personal thing, for me it’s quite personal. Creating something and then people come in and they try out your creation and the restaurant you’ve created, the dishes and all the staff that you’ve put together and then if they don’t like it that doesn’t mean criticism that sometimes you can actually see immediately in the dining room. So, you have to have a very thick skin to deal with that. Which I think quite makes it quite a unique industry and something that’s very susceptible to people looking for other ways to deal with stress and escape from the reality sort of speak. Drugs and alcohol are absolutely rampant in the industry.

James: Which exacerbates mental illness.

Shaun: Everyone just knock off drinks Saturday night you just wipe yourself out.  Again, something that’s changing but it has a long way to go.

James: I think you’ve touched on a really interesting point with the reviews because now everyone feels empowered to leave their review as if they’re a Michelin judge. And yet sadly, 99.999% of the people who are leaving those reviews aren’t Michelin judges and 95% of them have not even worked in the kitchen before so they’ve got no idea. But it is one of the things that not many people are looking at, but what is the impact of these reviews? Because I know, so we had 1 customer who probably about 3 years ago now, committed suicide and the reviews were one of the components that, I had spoken to him probably 4 or 6 weeks prior and reviews were one of the things that he was like “how do you deal with this? Like, Who writes this stuff?”

I talked to him briefly about it and gave him some general ways of managing online reviews but it was only after I found out that he’d committed suicide that I went back and read every single one of them and I just thought, who writes this shit? Like, who would really write this. like it was such a personal attack. And I’d been in his restaurant it was a good restaurant. I felt bad reading it and it wasn’t even my restaurant. It would have been devastating I reckon to them to have read that about their restaurant. It is their piece of art that they’re creating on a daily basis for a fickle audience that’s an incredibly tough thing. I think this is one of the issues in the industry as long as the pressure.

We’ve discussed some of the negative things though.  You’re running one of Australia’s most innovative restaurants. There’s a couple of things that I’ve pulled out of your story. One is the obsession you know that, the need for, almost a need for perfection. I guess it’s not about perfection but it’s the journey towards perfection and getting as close as you possibly can.

Shaun: Yeah!

Mental illness: It’s not all negative, there’s an upside

James: That’s one component of it then. The other thing, I think, is really interesting is the creativity because your mind is coming up with things that other people aren’t coming up with. So there has to be something in there doesn’t it?

Shaun: Yeah, I think so. I get asked all the time it’s like, where do you get your inspiration from?  how do you do this?  how do you do that? Where does it all come from? It’s really a hard question to answer because I think everyone has a different journey that they take. everyone’s had a different upbringing, they’ve being born in different situations. They’ve had different experiences. For me what I do in a day to day basis is a combination of pretty much my experiences from the day I was born. That’s the best way I can explain it. I think, just to break it down. I would be working on a dish or thinking about some component of walking into the restaurant that I’d like to change or do something completely new.

There’ll be memories and there’ll be things that you draw from that you experienced 10, 20 years ago that have some sort of impact within your order of time or not. they had an impact on you and they’re tucked away in your head. That’s the best way I can explain it. Everything in the restaurant in particular has gone through my head in some sort of process and come out.  I guess that’s the style.  I feel quite lucky that people quite enjoy what we do here.

Because all I’ve done is basically created something that I would like to go to and not in a selfish way I guess that’s what people do they do what they know. Again, it’s a combination of all these different experiences different oven, different restaurants that you’ve been to different kitchens that you’ve worked in. people that you’ve talked to, seminars and music and not just in hospitality but different artists that you’re inspired by. Musicians and all that’s a good thing but they are all happening on the creative side of how you work.

And that to me is how you create something it’s just having a singular idea and kinda putting into my head and kinda stewing out thinking about it. Actually, starting the process I suppose, just testing out one of the components that’s the biggest thing is actually just taking that first step and just trying it out. Because not until you do that you realise this is going to be quite interesting this could actually be something or more often than not you actually do something you say that was something that’s total shit.  I would say three quarters of the dishes on the menu at the moment started off something different and sort of morphed into what they are today.

That’s pretty much how I work, you have an idea and you try something out then you realise that it’s not great but then you’ll  notice something about it, it’s like what if do this to it what if I take it in that direction and it ends up becoming something completely different but along the way while you’re thinking about that is how innovation happens and new things come about because you’re applying your experiences, your memories, things that have happened to you in the past you’re applying that to what you’re doing today, right now. That’s how I work so hope that I answered the question.

James: The thing I think that process is, the innovation process is really quite interesting. I think the really big question is what is it that’s going on in your head that’s different to other people’s heads because innovation is where its at. If you can innovate more quickly and better and come up with better dished then you’ve got a significant competitive advantage and a lot of people aren’t doing that. So, this is the thing that I think this is where the big question is, what’s going on  in your head that’s actually aiding that creative process. I think it comes back to what you said before about all of those people with mental illness and saying if you could not have it would you do that, them saying no because it’s part of what makes me, me.

I think that’s probably a lot to that and it’s very similar in the IT world in the developer world a lot of companies now have started to prefer hiring people with Asperger’s because they make extremely good coders. They’re quite happy to code away for 8 hours straight. They’ve got long attention spans, very very good attention to detail and they’re not distracted in a way that other developers are. Really it’s about finding, understanding the way that people work and the way that they think and really sort of creating an environment around them to flourish.

Mental illness awareness in the restaurant industry

James: What do you think that chefs and managers can do better to be aware of mental health and the way that they run their teams?

Shaun: I think it’s like anything. You need to recognise that things change. Things are always going to change they always have changed there’s nothing you can do about it. You need to embrace it otherwise you become irrelevant very, very quickly. Specific to our industry there’s so many restaurants just opening every single week at different levels. You need to be competitive and you need to have a game plan and you need to be smart about how you deal with the day to day pressures of running a hospitality business.  So, you can’t just say I remember like, this is how we used to do it in the old days. You can’t just talk about it all day who cares, you move on.

You make allowances it’s important to know where you come from and where other people come from but you shouldn’t dwell on that. You take the good points out of that and you move on because otherwise what’s the point just you shouldn’t be running your own business because much that’s in hospitality everything changes every day there’s just constant change around us, its 2017 particularly technology was, every single day there’s something coming out. I think in hospitality in particular there’s a lot of conservatism and I don’t want to say backwards thinking  but just lots of people drilling on how things have always been done which drives me insane because we have access to so much information and technology and support that we need to look for it and search for it and do things the way that we were taught how to do. If I did things the way that I was taught how to do growing up in kitchens well then I would have the same restaurant that I have worked in 10, 15 years ago. You need to take the good points all these different situations that you’ve been in and then apply them to the situation you’re in today.

Mental Illness: Everybody should talk about it

James: I think the really big thing is that people’s attitude towards mental illness fundamentally. In the old days you didn’t need to manage mental illness because no one talked about it. It was generally accepted that no one was going to ever have that conversation.

Shaun: Yeah. It’s a good point. I have 15 staff that work for me at the moment. I spend a lot of time just managing them. Making sure that everything’s okay, they have what that they need and they have the equipment that they need.  They have the support from the management that will help them do their job so that the potential that they have seen, is just being smart about it and realizing that whoever bitches about millennials and being lazy and precious and all that sort of thing. It’s kind of hard to explain because it’s something that’s been a constant throughout history.

The new generation comes through and they’ve had a different experience growing up and they’ve been born into different circumstances as their predecessors, as their parents, as their boss as their mentor. Its our job as people who are looking after them and supporting them in their part of the journey to actually recognize that’s the case that they’ve had a different set of experiences. They’ve had a different set of circumstances happened to them and there’s nothing you can do to change that. You need to embrace it and be smart about how to work with them and get the best out of them because otherwise, again you just become irrelevant and you’ll become that stereotypical cranky old guy who just bitches about how it was in the old days and kids don’t know anything and they’re always on their phones and all that, that’s the thing that’s our reality.

Again, you either sink or swim, you either change or you don’t and you shut down so I think specifically talking about mental health it’s something that everyone is affected by whether they’re directly or indirectly affected by. We need to talk about it, embrace it and figure out what we’re going to do about it. because a good point you said before about IT companies hiring people with Asperger’s, 20, 30 years ago people like that would have been thrown into an asylum or 100, 200, 300 years ago they would have been left in a forest somewhere. Things have changed and again, being smart about how we deal with people on a daily basis.

James: I think this is the benefit of a team approach you can sort of make time and build a team so that we can minimize people’s weaknesses and maximise everyone’s strengths because we’re all in a war for talent and we need to be getting the best out of everyone that we can. It’s hard to find good people these days.

Shaun: Its very, very hard. It’s a constant source of stress, trying to build and maintain a team that can do what you want them to do. It’s probably the main part of my job being a restaurateur as opposed to just being a chef, a total game changer. You have to know how to manage people and it’s not something that you get taught either.  Being a chef you’re not taught how to talk to people and deal with their problems and manage them to the best of your ability without destroying their confidence or harming them in some way it’s very easy just to yell at people when you’re feeling frustrated. We’re all guilty of it, I’m guilty of it. I think every chef would say the same thing and somehow you get the best type of people. A lot of people say that they’re very supportive of the industry and that they love the industry but their actions don’t reflect their words. They just use people. I never want a business like that. I try to hire people that would bring something to the business and have their own opinions.

My end goal as being a manager is to actually be able to step back and just watch everyone doing their job.  That’s like this little microcosm. You know this perfect kind of perfect storm that you build. I don’t want to be there micromanaging people I just want to be in the background. Give them the skills that they need. Give them autonomy and let them do their job. I mean of course you have to hire the right people to do that. You have to train them but when it works and you’ve done it properly, it’s amazing. It’s really, really satisfying running a restaurant where everyone is professional and everyone knows what is expected of them. Everyone knows what their job is and they’ve been given the skills that they need to produce the work that they need to. That’s a beautiful thing again back to my plan I think we just need to be smart how we deal with people.

Specifically, with mental health, it’s just recognising that it does affect everyone so we can’t just continue to ignore it. Hospitality is such a great example because it’s a stressful job it’s a stressful industry and there’s access to a lot of things that exacerbate mental illness. There’s stress, there’s drugs very easy access to our call.  It’s an industry that can be very, very rewarding for the right person and the people that have this cordon of watching the right places that also in the street where people can go into it and they can chew them up and spit them out within a year. If they are not in the right kitchen. If they are not in the right restaurant or a place not have the right support from the people that they work with. It’s a very late discussion and it’s still a discussion that we need to have and I think it’s only when we kind of confront it head on and just acknowledge that yeah people have this and it goes on what are we going to do about it that’s the only what the industry is going to move forward.

James: I think it’s a really good point in the right team those people can do pretty amazing things. You’ve even then got your example where creating one of the best restaurants in Australia. Probably not in spite of but because of your mental health.

Shaun: Yeah, exactly. I think I’ve been quite fortunate that I’ve had a few key people on the way that have helped me out and kind of pushed me, nudged me in the right direction. My partner Veronica she’s usually supportive of what I do and how I work. Something we openly talk about all the time it’s an impossible thing to do if you don’t have support. You feel like you’re all alone and that’s the horrible thing about it. It brings me back to my point that I made about Robin Williams before its that on the surface he’s beloved by the entire world, has a huge amount of money, has been very, very successful but that was not enough and that’s how it feels.  You feel like you’re worthless. You just can’t contribute. You can’t do anything right or you just feel like the world is flat, crushing you with pressure and crushing you with this grey matter, so to speak. It’s something that can be absolutely crushing and just horrible. In some cases people can’t deal with it.

Success, does not mean mentally healthy

Recently we had a really, really popular chef Jeremy Strode in Sydney. He decided to take his own life. And again, a very, very good example of someone been through very successful absolutely loved by his peers everyone that ever met him or worked with him had nothing but nice things to say about him, about him personally, and about his work. Very successful throughout his career had a family, had kids but again it wasn’t enough and that’s the horrible thing about it see. At least someone like Jeremy that’s kind of spurred a lot of people to come and talk about it at all which is a great thing but it’s like a thing before it. It kinda takes when it happens to a celebrity or it happens to a really well known figure.  How many times do people talk about it because it happens all the time? People die all the time. People commit suicide all the time. People are sick all the time. It’s horrible shit because I’m in the world every single day, every single minute. No one talks about it unless it happens to them or it happens to someone that they love, or it happens to someone that they know. It’s a really tough thing, it’s tough for people to talk about.  Because it’s had this stigma around them for so many years.

Again, it’s kind of drawing it back to what we’re talking about before it’s almost innovating because we’re deciding to tackle something head on it’s never ever been popular discussion in society ever. In the history of mankind no one’s ever really freely talked about it so I think in 2017 across all industries not just hospitality people need to do that. Where, I’m happy to talk about it openly I’m not embarrassed by what I go through and what’s happened to me in the past. It’s just something that happened that’s a fact. It’s like I can look back at it now it’s no different to me thinking about “Ah yeah, I broke my leg when I was 13.” That’s how people should feel about it. That it’s something that people experience and that they shouldn’t be ashamed about breaking their leg. They shouldn’t be ashamed about having mental health issue actually it’s no different that’s something that happens to you it’s not your fault.

And that’s the biggest thing it’s no one’s fault but then you’ve been dealt this card dealt this hand it’s not like you’ve done something horrible and then being given this mental health card. People are born with a pack of greatest positions card and I think that’s the thing that a lot of people need to remember it’s that, people shouldn’t be blamed for how they are. You can say that for a number of things, so many different things but specifically with mental health it’s not their fault. so I think that’s a good point.

James: Exactly, and I think that’s why I’m so grateful for you for sharing your journey because I think that a lot of people, I think hopefully it’s inspirational to a lot of people who are suffering from mental illness and on top of that it will be educational for those who aren’t but are working with people who are. it will be just another step as we try and destigmatise suffering.  It has such a huge impact on society as a whole. So, thank you very much for sharing your story today.

Shaun: Yeah, it became my pleasure I hope someone even it is just one person who listens to this and they can relate to my story and realise that things can change. it may not feel like it now or at the time you might feel like nothing’s ever going to change and the weight of the world is upon you. Things can change. It just takes time.

James: Exactly, yes. so, Thank you very much!

Shaun: Thanks, James.

Conclusion: We should talk about Mental illness and make efforts to destigmatise it.

James: So, there it is. I think that it’s a really powerful conversation and I hope that there’s a couple of people out there who listened to this and just get something out of it. Whether you’re dealing with mental illness and you can see that maybe that there is the light at the end of the tunnel is a little brighter. Or if you’ve got people on your team who are dealing with mental illness maybe you can start to think about some of the tactics that you can use to not only make the environment a little bit easier for them but also how you might be able to actually harness some of the benefit that they may have. I think it’s really fascinating when you look at that positive side of mental illness. If you haven’t eaten at restaurant Lume you should definitely go there because the experience is really unlike anything else that I’ve had in any of the restaurants that I’ve eaten in.

The quote that I really like about restaurant Lume is by John Lethlean who is one of Australia’s most famous food writers, food critics and he said that there are things going on in the kitchen at Restaurant Lume that aren’t happening anywhere else in Australia and possibly even anywhere else in the world. Now, those things that are happening in the kitchen they have come from the mind of chef Quade.  The innovation, the creativity I think is really incredible. It’s definitely worth exploring further but you can see the linkage there between the mental illness and the thing that has made him such a talented and such a highly proclaimed chef. So, it’s a difficult topic to talk about and I really Thank Chef Quade for talking about it showing the courage to have this conversation. because of the issues that we have in the restaurant.

As he says something happened everyone says it’s a real shame that it’s happened but nothing actually changes. We really need to destigmatise this. We need to make, try and make the working environment as accommodating as possible to people but also look at the other side of mental illness the way that people’s brain work.

Thank you I hope you got something out of it.

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