In conversation with...Bruno Feldeisen
Updated: Sep 26, 2019
Focus: Mental Health and Success
In the early spring my life changed quite dramatically. I was in the middle of packing for London, England (a semi permanent move) when I received a call from Proper Television asking me to be the new judge on The Great Canadian Baking Show, Season Three. I was floored.
Meeting Bruno Feldeisen for the first time, I was enveloped by his gentle, kind nature. Sure, he seemed "nice" on the show...as "nice" as you can be telling someone their bread is slightly raw, but in person, I didn't know what to expect. I had done my homework; and a thorough Google Search reminded me that he " was named one of the Top 10 Pastry Chefs in America by Chocolatier Magazine two years in a row and has been nominated twice for the James Beard Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef."
No reason to be intimidated. Right? That tiny voice in the back of my head said...why me?
Before we started filming, he sent me an email. It was like he heard that tiny voice all the way over in Vancouver. He inspired me, encouraged me, clarified the whole judging process, and invited me to share the excitement, challenge and total thrill of being a part of a cast and crew of a prime time TV Show. It was like he knew me, understood me. I replied that he should do a Ted Talk. We may both be chefs, but there is more than that which links us.
In my search I also learned that he is a spokesperson for Anxiety Awareness. Many people I know, including myself, suffer from anxiety. I find that overachieving people often are afflicted with a passion and drive that is all consuming and often destructive.
So I asked Bruno "What is your personal connection with anxiety?"
BF: I have been living with diagnosed PTSD and general anxiety disorder for a long time.
Digging deeper I asked "How does anxiety affect job performance? In your opinion is it always negative?"
BF: It does slow me down a lot, but does not prevent me to do what I want to do in most cases. I learned to be resilient. It just takes me much longer to realize my goals. I sometimes imagine how much more I could have done!
People joke that you have to be crazy to want to work in a hot kitchen, under unrealistic time constraints, for long hours, creating art that will be consumed faster than it is prepared. The thing is; it isn't a joke. The amount of stress in a kitchen is disproportionate to the low payscale and the media today is obsessed with the lives of celebrity chefs and their destructive rock star life styles. Many self medicate, overwork themselves and burn out. I have worked in my share of kitchens with all types of mental health issues.
But Bruno is different. He is focused on POSITIVE OUTCOMES, and here is what he is doing about it. He proudly advocates for and supports Anxiety Canada.
Gracious enough to answer some of my questions, Bruno sheds light on the purpose and how many are affected.
Where is the membership based? / Who can join? / Who can benefit?
BF: No membership required. It is a reach-out organization with a lot of information provided and an amazing APP to download at Mindshift CBT.
What lead to the organization starting up?
BF: There is a high level of general anxiety in youth and First Nation, and it is not really addressed by any government agencies in British Columbia. You can see a lot of the traumas by just walking in any Canadian cities: youth prostitution, drug addiction, and homelessness. A lot of this could be addressed with easy and free access to mental health. Right now in Vancouver BC, there is approximately 500 homeless kids at any given time. This is totally unacceptable for such a rich country as Canada.
How can we donate/participate? Fundraising: are there any upcoming events to raise funds and /or awareness?
BF: There is an annual fund raising. Also donations can be made online. It is hosted in May which conflicts with my schedule, shooting The Great Canadian Baking Show. I usually donate my time and talent for a sit down dinner in one of the bidder winner.
What is the main goal of the organization?
BF: For everyone to have free and easy access, without shame, to mental illness support.
NOTE: according to the Anxiety Canada Website they share that "We are the developers of the free MindShift app which helps youth and young adults manage anxiety, using step-by-step strategies based on psychological treatment."
What is the significance of the Golden Pineapple pin that you wear?
BF: It is the symbol of hospitality. When sea captains returned from their tropical voyages, they would take pineapple from their cargo and hang them on their front door or gate post as a sign of welcome and safe place.
What key tips would you offer to someone suffering from anxiety and anxiety related disorders to help them succeed in the industry?
BF: Don’t be ashamed and go seek help. No one will judge you. Take back your life and imagine happiness flowing through your mind and body.
This last answer really resonated with me. I remember the day I decided to 'let happiness flow through my mind and body.' I changed the way I spoke, the way I perceived the world. It took a long time. I called it doing mental push ups. But the world is a beautiful place and without the challenges we cannot fully appreciate the joy. It is when you push yourself out of your comfort zone that you really succeed.
So I asked Bruno: If you could visit your 20-year-old self what is the #1 coping mechanism you would teach yourself?
BF: Seek help when I was 20 and not wait until I could not bear it at 42 years old. I sometimes feel I wasted so many years. That is why I am so hungry for more, now than ever.
Who/what was the biggest influence in your life to teach you to overcome obstacles and become the success you are now?
BF: I think I get inspired by both people's personal stories and also history. Anyone who survives a genocides, anyone that beat cancer. Any survivor of any traumatic event is an inspiration to me.
Along with his involvement in the organization, he is active with Growing Veterans
and supports " the many issues that veterans face: unemployment, homelessness, suicide, divorce, and depression..."
Knowing that he prefers to focus on The Positive I asked:
What is your greatest achievement?
BF: Becoming a father!
Meeting "mini Bruno" this summer I witnessed first hand how focused Bruno is to make sure that life is full of balance; surrounded with love and nature and activity....
So I had to ask:
Skateboard or surfboard?
BF: Hmmmmm, surfing in Monterey, California.
Not surprised and somewhat relieved that my co judge is not risking road rash on his days off, I circled back to his career:
When are you happiest at work?
BF: During service, working the expo station, synchronizing a busy night with my kitchen team.
[For those of you who don't go behind the proverbial velvet curtain; the "expo station" is
the station between the line and dining room. Whoever works this station, whether it's the chef, sous, or a front of house manager, is the expo. They call your tickets, garnish your plates, and, if the plating is complicated, plate the food.' Thanks New Times for the quick definition.]
And what about home? What are the 5 things you always keep in your kitchen cupboard?
BF: Wafu Japanese dressing, rigatoni pasta, San Marzano canned tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, black olive paste.
Logical...especially given his current residence in Vancouver, Canada and his Italian heritage (don't let the French accent fool you, he identifies with Italian and German roots.) No sauerkraut? But seriously, having a German, French, and Italian heritage just lends itself to a world of classical pastry and bread making.
As Season Three Premieres on Wednesday, September 18, 2019 at 8pm on CBC I asked what other projects he has on the go:
BF: A second cookbook due in 2020, a book about my experience with PTSD and anxiety in 2021.
His first cookbook is scheduled to hit the shelves mid to late November of this year, he confirmed with some very excited and colourful language. I have seen a sneak peak of some of the recipes and am excited to try out a particular old Quebec classic cake.
What is the most exciting part about writing a cookbook?
BF: To look at the first draft from the publisher design team. You are just floored, no pun intended here!
Oh so many puns come from Bruno's charming ESL vocabulary. My sides hurt from laughing so much on the set. We made a game of searching the internet during our downtime to expand our vocabulary and often he would combine adjectives with culinary terminology in the most hilarious and descriptive ways. A regular Tolkien in the kitchen, he is.
Biggest challenge to writing a cookbook? or two?
BF: To be able to craft a clear idea and develop it into a meaningful story. And that is true for any book.
And if he isn't busy enough with the show and book and family; he is also opening a restaurant (definitely to be featured on The Vancouver List.)
Wandering West Coast Cuisine
So apropos. With hours to go before the show airs, I offer my sincerest thanks to my partner in crime, a great mentor, a respectful judge and an educated Chef.
P.S. Here is a link to Bruno's recipes!