Sebastian Simon: A successful chef giving back to the community

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Fair to say that most chefs don't have the best reputation when it comes to being patient people. In fact, most have a Gordon-Ramsey-style approach to interacting with staff and customers.

It's hard to imagine the gently spoken Sebastian Simon as one of these red-faced chefs, but he insists that until several years ago, that's exactly what he was.

"I came from a very abusive cheffing industry growing up. The chefs only knew the one way of communicating, which was essentially - you better do it my way, or else I'm going to kick you," he says.

But it wasn't long before he realised that this style of management and teaching was not for him. Simon realised that he wanted to support the new chefs entering the industry, not deter them. And so, over the years, Sebastian has worked tirelessly to make the cheffing industry a safe, welcoming, and happy place for his students and his staff.

"One of the things that changed me drastically, however, was turning my business around from a place of hate, to a place of cooking with love. That's why I became a teacher, to teach cooking with love."

This path eventually led him to hosting three Australian celebrity chefs in his hometown of Bangalore for the International Food Festival.

"In 2016 I was lucky enough to be involved in the World On A Plate food festival which allowed me to work with the three judges of Australian MasterChef (Gary Mehigan, George Calombaris and Matt Preston) in Bangalore, India, where I grew up," says Sebastian.

With his newfound fame, Sebastian decided that he wanted to open his own restaurant, and continue to leverage his connection, through word of mouth. But, once he had embarked on this new journey, just like his realisation many years ago when contemplating what kind of chef he wanted to be, Sebastian had another moment of life-changing reflection.

"After a few months back in Melbourne, I had this thought. I was like, Sebastian, what is wrong with you? You have become a vain, proud, and a ridiculously arrogant person. That's when it hit me: I've been blessed with this really incredible gift of cooking. And all my life I've been doing it for myself - now it's time to give back."

So Sebastian came up with an idea: he was going to bring the gift of food to a stranger each and every day of 2017. And so, his Random Acts Of Kindness mission was born.

“I was going to cook for someone else every single day of 2017” says Sebastian. “I was going to cook it for them myself, not pre-prepared, not reheated but cooked right in front of them. And the main point was this: whatever I do, it's not about getting something back in return. It must be a one way thing, an act of kindness from me to someone else."

Sebastian also challenged himself to step out of his comfort zone, and started cooking for people who were complete strangers.

"I began first doing this with people I knew because I was concerned I might get a kick up my backside if I surprised someone I didn't know at their house!" laughs Sebastian.

"But then people I knew from Facebook, friends of friends, they began to nominate people they felt deserved a meal."

This is where the magic really began to happen.

Social responsibility is a hot topic in the world of hospitality. For an industry built around food, service, and communicating; it's hard to ignore the inequities in our communities between those who can afford it, and those who cannot. Or, in Sebastian's case, those who deserve it.

"How many chefs out there actually cook with hate? With anger? How many chefs cook with love? As I said, meals bring people together. And this will take this to the next level when we deliver this as an act of kindness."

Looking forward, and Sebastian hopes to expand his Random Acts Of Kindness into a larger-scale event. More than that, Sebastian hopes to inspire his fellow chefs to follow in his footsteps and look outwards to the people surrounding them, to pass on their talents.

It's impossible not to feel inspired by Sebastian's simple passion for helping others. No matter how big or small, we can all pass it forward with our local communities - after all, you never know how much one simple meal could change someone's life.

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