Have You Eaten Yet?

Chef Ben Shewry: A Conversation From Attica in Melbourne Australia

March 29, 2022 Kassata Bollman / Chef Ben Shewry Episode 24
Have You Eaten Yet?
Chef Ben Shewry: A Conversation From Attica in Melbourne Australia
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

New Episode With Chef Ben Shewry.

He Joins Us From Melbourne Australia.

Currently He’s Chef & Owner Of Attica.

From Three Hats In The Good Food Guide To A Spot On The World’s 50 Best Restaurant’s List, Attica Has Had Many Accolades.

And While Awards Are Nice, They Don’t Even Begin To Compare To The Life Lessons 

That Chef Shewry Has Learned On His Journey……Lessons That He’s Kind Enough To Share With Us Today.

We Discuss:

✅ The Emotions And Elements That Come With The Psychology Of Dining.

✅The Balance Of Being A Destination Restaurant.

✅The Experience Of Closing And Rebranding Attica During The Height Of The Pandemic.

https://www.instagram.com/benshewry/?hl=en

https://www.attica.com.au/

https://www.instagram.com/atticamelbourne/?hl=en

[[MUSIC]]


I’M KASSATA BOLLMAN. 

TODAY MY GUEST IS CHEF BEN SHEWRY. 

HE JOINS US FROM MELBOURNE AUSTRALIA…..


WHERE...CURRENTLY….. HE’S CHEF & OWNER OF ATTICA….


FROM THREE HATS IN THE GOOD FOOD GUIDE…. TO A SPOT ON THE WORLD’S 50 BEST RESTAURANT’S LIST….. ATTICA HAS HAD MANY ACCOLADES….


AND WHILE AWARDS ARE NICE….THEY DON’T EVEN BEGIN TO COMPARE… TO THE LIFE LESSONS …

THAT CHEF SHEWRY HAS LEARNED ON HIS JOURNEY……LESSONS THAT HE’S KIND ENOUGH TO SHARE WITH US TODAY…..


WE’LL BE DISCUSSING…. 


THE EMOTIONS AND ELEMENTS THAT COME WITH THE PSYCHOLOGY OF DINING...….. 


ALSO…….THE BALANCE OF BEING A DESTINATION RESTAURANT…..


PLUS…. THE EXPERIENCE OF CLOSING…. AND RE-BRANDING ATTICA….. DURING THE HEIGHT OF THE PANDEMIC….



SO I’LL START BY ASKING…..AS WE ALWAYS DO….CHEF SHEWRY…..

 “HAVE YOU EATEN YET?”......


THIS COULD BE A MEAL FROM TODAY …..OR A CUP OF COFFEE THAT YOU’RE DRINKING NOW….


 …...OR….. IT COULD BE …...THE LAST MEAL…. THAT YOU HAVE A REALLY GREAT MEMORY ABOUT…..ONE THAT TRULY RESONATED WITH YOU…..

IT COULD BE ONE FROM 10 YEARS AGO….. OR ANYTIME….

 

 

[[CHEF SHEWRY DISCUSSES]]

 




 

ATTICA’S EARLY DAYS

WE’RE GOING TO START BY TALKING ABOUT YOUR EARLY DAYS AT ATTICA…..                       YOU MOVED TO MELBOURNE IN 2002…..IN 2005…..YOU BECOME THE EXECUTIVE 

CHEF… AT ATTICA…AT THIS POINT THE RESTAURANT IS STRUGGLING….. THE DINING ROOM IS NOT FULL EVERY NIGHT….IT’S A LOCAL SPOT….

WHAT WAS THAT FIRST YEAR LIKE?….WHEN YOU’RE JUST THE CHEF….NOT THE OWNER….

YOU COULD WALK AWAY IF YOU WANTED AT THIS POINT….BUT WHAT MADE YOU STAY?

[[CHEF SHEWRY DISCUSSES]]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HOW TO BUY A RESTAURANT

DESPITE THE LACK OF CUSTOMERS….YOU KNEW THE BONES WERE THERE….THAT YOU COULD TAKE THIS RESTAURANT AND MAKE IT YOUR OWN….EVEN IF YOU HAD TO GO BROKE….

 

TO BUY ATTICA YOU SAVED 40 THOUSAND DOLLARS… FOR A DEPOSIT ON A HOUSE….YOU BOUGHT ONE FOR 340 THOUSAND….

THE DOWNSIDE..... IT WAS TWO-HOURS AWAY FROM THE RESTAURANT…..

BUT….THE PROPERTY DOUBLED IN VALUE…..AND YOU USED THE EQUITY…. TO LEVERAGE A LOAN….. TO PURCHASE THE BUSINESS…. IN 2015. 

ONCE ATTICA IS YOURS….LIFE DOESN’T GET EASIER OVERNIGHT…..AT THIS POINT YOU OWE 150 THOUSAND DOLLARS IN PURCHASES ALONE…


YOU DON’T HAVE ENOUGH POTS AND PANS…. YOU’RE MAXING OUT CREDIT CARDS…..


YOU’RE FEELING LIKE NOBODY CARES ABOUT THE RESTAURANT…


BUT….. THIS TOUGH JOURNEY ALLOWS YOU TO  DEVELOP YOUR OWN VOICE….. IN COOKING….


AND CUSTOMERS START TO TAKE NOTICE….


IN FACT ONE NIGHT….A CUSTOMER SAYS 


“NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO…. DON’T CHANGE…..STAY TRUE TO YOURSELF…”


TAKE ME BACK TO THIS TIME…..WHAT DID IT FEEL LIKE WHEN YOU HEARD THOSE WORDS….DID YOU FEEL SEEN FOR THE FIRST TIME…. AS A CHEF?

 

[[CHEF SHEWRY DISCUSSES]]

 

DEPRESSION

THERE’S A TIME…BACK IN 2009…. WHEN YOU’RE ABOUT 4 YEARS INTO BEING EXECUTIVE CHEF AT ATTICA….BEFORE YOU PURCHASED THE BUSINESS….

WHEN YOU NEARLY “THREW IT ALL AWAY”....

YOU WERE DEALING WITH “CIRCUMSTANTIAL DEPRESSION”....AT TIMES YOU COULD BARELY GET OUT OF BED…..

YOU RECOVERED BY RE-CONNECTING WITH THINGS THAT MADE YOU HAPPY…SPENDING TIME WITH FAMILY….. AND BEING OUTSIDE….

I THINK IT’S REALLY IMPORTANT THAT WE TALK ABOUT THIS….

ALL TOO OFTEN MEN ESPECIALLY…DON’T OPEN UP ABOUT THEIR JOURNEY WITH DEPRESSION….

AND I THINK THE MORE WE NORMALIZE IT…. THE MORE WE CAN SHED THE STIGMA SURROUNDING IT….

AND…. HOPEFULLY HELP SOMEONE…. WHO MIGHT BE LISTENING NOW….

THERE COULD BE A CHEF THAT’S IN BED RIGHT NOW…. LISTENING…AND PERHAPS THEY CAN’T SEE PAST THE DARKNESS…..

DO YOU MIND SHEDDING SOME LIGHT ON THE PERSPECTIVE….THAT HELPED GUIDE YOU OUT OF THAT CHAPTER?.... 

[[CHEF SHEWRY DISCUSSES]]

AND CAN YOU TOUCH ON… THE IMPORTANCE OF BALANCE……HOW IMPACTFUL TIME AWAY FROM THE RESTAURANT…. CAN BE….. FOR MENTAL HEALTH…..


[[CHEF SHEWRY DISCUSSES]]

CHEF’S TABLE

I’VE READ THAT YOU CONSIDER YOURSELF A PRIVATE PERSON….AND THAT YOU WERE HESITANT TO APPEAR IN THE NETFLIX SERIES CHEF’S TABLE… BACK IN 2015….

THIS PRODUCTION TURNED OUT TO BE FAR BEYOND ANY TYPICAL TELEVISION FOOD SHOW….

BUT YOU WERE IN THE FIRST SEASON…. SO YOU HAD TO TAKE A CHANCE IN SOME RESPECT….

CAN YOU BRING ME BACK TO THE MOMENT THAT PRODUCERS REACHED OUT TO YOU……. AND EXPLAIN HOW THEY PITCHED THEIR VISION TO YOU?

 

[[CHEF SHEWRY DISCUSSES]]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

POST CHEF’S TABLE

AND AFTER THE SHOW ARRIVES ON NETFLIX….CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE EFFECT IT HAS ON YOUR LIFE?.......IS IT IMMEDIATE?.....OR 6 MONTHS…. TO A YEAR LATER?.....

I GUESS I'M LOOKING FOR YOU TO TAKE US ON A BIT OF AN AUDIO JOURNEY….KIND OF A STEP-BY-STEP TRIP…. DOWN MEMORY LANE……

FROM THE MOMENT THE SHOW AIRS…. TO WHEN YOU NOTICE THE SHOW CHANGES YOUR LIFE…..

DO THOUSANDS OF DINERS FROM AROUND THE WORLD…. BEGIN ARRIVING WITHIN A FEW MONTHS?.....

DOES ALL OF THIS PUBLICITY AFFECT YOUR SERVICE AND TEAM?......

MANY QUESTIONS ROLLED INTO ONE I KNOW…..

BUT THIS PROCESS FASCINATES ME…..

WE ALL WATCH THE SHOW…..BUT WE RARELY GET TO SEE WHAT HAPPENS….. AFTER THE SHOW…. REACHES MILLIONS OF PEOPLE…..

 

[[CHEF SHEWRY DISCUSSES]]

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AWARDS

FROM THREE HATS IN THE GOOD FOOD GUIDE…. TO A SPOT ON THE WORLD’S 50 BEST RESTAURANT’S LIST….. ATTICA HAS BEEN INCLUDED ON THE AWARD CIRCUIT MANY TIMES….


TAKE ME BACK TO THE FIRST TIME YOU MADE THE WORLD’S 50 BEST LIST….


I’M CURIOUS IF IT’S SIMILAR TO BEING ON CHEF’S TABLE…..


WHEN IT COMES TO THE LOGISTICS…. AND OVERALL  EFFECT ON ATTICA….


IS IT A SURGE OF RESERVATIONS?.....ARE YOU GETTING ACQUAINTED WITH A DIFFERENT TYPE OF DINER ?…..…



 

[[CHEF SHEWRY DISCUSSES]]

 


AND HOW LONG DOES THAT HYPE LAST? …… OR IS IT EVERLASTING?


 

[[CHEF SHEWRY DISCUSSES]]

 

 

 

 

 

 

NEW PERSPECTIVE ON AWARDS

I READ THAT IN THE PAST COUPLE OF YEARS… YOU’VE HAD A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE ABOUT AWARDS…..FEELING THAT THEY’RE  A LITTLE PHONY….

YOU SAID QUOTE:

“IT’S PROBABLY INFLUENCED BY MY FEELINGS AT THIS MOMENT….AND THE ABSENCE OF SUPPORT FROM ORGANIZATIONS…. LIKE THOSE WHO HAVE TAKEN A LOT FROM RESTAURANTS … 

THE VENEER WHICH WAS SO THIN…. HAS JUST BEEN COMPLETELY STRIPPED OFF….

 …….AWARDS JUST DON’T MATTER TO ME AT ALL.”

CAN YOU EXPAND ON THAT IDEA….. ABOUT THE ABSENCE OF SUPPORT FROM ORGANIZATIONS…. THAT HAVE TAKEN A LOT FROM RESTAURANTS … 

WHAT ARE THESE ORGANIZATIONS TAKING ? 

AND HOW COULD THEY OFFER MORE SUPPORT TO RESTAURANTS…..TO CREATE A MORE BALANCED RELATIONSHIP…. MOVING FORWARD?

[[CHEF SHEWRY DISCUSSES]]

 

 


 

 

 


COVID 

PRE PANDEMIC…. YOUR BOOK WAS FILLED UP WITH RESERVATIONS MONTHS IN ADVANCE….ATTICA WAS A 62 SEAT RESTAURANT….

YOU HAD A TEAM OF 38 FULL-TIME STAFF….FOR 15 YEARS YOUR OPERATION WAS A WELL OILED MACHINE….YOU KNEW HOW TO RUN IT….

WHEN THE PANDEMIC HITS YOU KNEW YOU COULDN’T OPERATE THE SAME WAY….SO YOU LAUNCH “ATTICA AT HOME”....

THESE ARE READY TO EAT DINNERS…. BEING DELIVERED 6 NIGHTS A WEEK…. UP TO 100 DELIVERIES PER NIGHT….. 9 CARS ON THE ROAD….ALL DRIVEN BY YOUR TEAM….AND SOMETIMES BY YOU…. 

YOUR WORLD WAS FLIPPED UPSIDE DOWN….HOW DID YOU STAY POSITIVE DURING THAT TIME?......


AND I MEAN….NOT JUST A THOUGHT….


IF YOU LOOK BACK AT THAT TIME…..WHAT THINGS, ACTIVITIES, RITUALS 


DID YOU DO CONSISTENTLY…..TO HELP CLEAR YOUR MIND……AND MOTIVATE YOU TO KEEP PUSHING FORWARD?


I GUESS I'M TRYING TO JUMP INTO YOUR MIND….INTO YOUR HEADSPACE….. AND PICTURE YOUR DAILY LIFE BACK THEN…..


THE WORLD WAS FILLED WITH A LOT OF DARKNESS AT THAT TIME…..

EVERYONE IN OUR INDUSTRY WAS SURROUNDED BY THE “UNKNOWN”.....BUT FROM THE OUTSIDE ….YOU LOOKED FOCUSED….AND POSITIVE…..




[[CHEF SHEWRY DISCUSSES]]

 

COVID SUCCESS

DURING THIS TIME….WHEN MANY RESTAURANTS ARE ONLY IN SURVIVAL MODE….

YOUR ORIGINAL PLAN TO SURVIVE…. TO KEEP YOUR TEAM EMPLOYED…. WENT BEYOND THAT….

YOU ACTUALLY HIRED MORE PEOPLE DURING THE PANDEMIC…

YOU WERE NOT LOSING MONEY….

DID ‘ATTICA AT HOME’ END UP BEING PROFITABLE FOR THE BUSINESS?

 

[[CHEF SHEWRY DISCUSSES]]

 

 

NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCE

IN AN INTERVIEW YOU CALLED THE CLOSURE AND RE-BRANDING OF ATTICA…. A NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCE…. 

I’D LOVE FOR YOU TO EXPLAIN THIS IDEA…..

AND ALSO I’M CURIOUS…. IF TODAY …YOU FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE THE FREEDOM…. TO HAVE A FRESH START…… AFTER THIS EXPERIENCE?

 

[[CHEF SHEWRY DISCUSSES]]

 

 

 

VIABLE BUSINESS

IN THE PAST YOU’VE SAID THAT ATTICA NEEDS TO OPEN TO 62 CUSTOMERS….5 NIGHTS A WEEK……

 THAT’S THE ONLY WAY IT’S VIABLE……

IS THAT STILL THE CASE TODAY?...... 

WHAT STAGE OF THE POST PANDEMIC JOURNEY IS ATTICA ON THESE DAYS?  

 

[[CHEF SHEWRY DISCUSSES]]

 

DESTINATION RESTAURANT

HISTORICALLY ATTICA HAS BEEN A DESTINATION RESTAURANT….

WITH TRAVEL STARTING TO COME BACK AND BORDERS OPENING TO INTERNATIONAL VISITORS….

HAS ATTICA CHANGED?….OR DOES IT REMAIN A DESTINATION SPOT?

….OR PERHAPS….. HAS IT MOLDED INTO A HYBRID?…..

MAYBE YOUR LOCAL CUSTOMER BASE ACTUALLY EXPANDED…. DURING THE PANDEMIC? ….

MAYBE PEOPLE WHO NEVER DINED WITH YOU PREVIOUSLY…..ENJOYED THE ACCESSIBILITY…. AND PRICE POINT….. OF “ATTICA AT HOME” …..AND YOU GAINED NEW FANS?

[[CHEF SHEWRY DISCUSSES]]

RESTAURANTS EVOKING EMOTION

LAST OCTOBER I READ ONE OF YOUR INSTAGRAM POSTS…. AND WAS MOVED BY YOUR THOUGHTS ON RESTAURANTS EVOKING EMOTION. 

ONE OF MY FAVORITE PARTS WAS YOU SUMMARIZING THE PSYCHOLOGY OF DINING….. AND YOUR JOURNEY OBSERVING IT ALL....

YOU SAID QUOTE: 

"ALL THE GREATEST EXPERIENCES I'VE EVER HAD IN DINING ROOMS WERE ABOUT EMOTION….. AND THE UN-QUANTIFIABLE ELEMENT….. THAT IS HARD TO WRITE ABOUT……. BUT YOU ALWAYS KNOW IT WHEN YOU FEEL IT. 

IT'S A COMBINATION OF SKILL, QUALITY, ENVIRONMENT, CARE, ENERGY AND MOST LIKELY….. PURE GOOD LUCK. 

IT CAN'T BE MANUFACTURED….. AND FROM MY EXPERIENCE…. SELDOM COMES IN THE FIRST FEW YEARS… OF RUNNING A JOINT." 

SINCE IT IS HARD TO WRITE ABOUT….I’D LIKE TO OPEN UP THIS CONVERSATION FOR YOU TO EXPAND…. AND FREE-FLOW….. ABOUT THIS EMOTION AND ELEMENT….

[[CHEF SHEWRY DISCUSSES]]

 

 

 

FINDING INSPIRATION

HOW DO YOU CONTINUE TO FIND INSPIRATION EACH YEAR ? ......

[[CHEF SHEWRY DISCUSSES]]





FUTURE

WHAT DOES YOUR IDEAL FUTURE LOOK LIKE ?......

 

[[CHEF SHEWRY DISCUSSES]]

 



 

SYNCHRONICITIES



HAVE THERE EVER BEEN ANY SIGNS OR SYNCHRONICITIES IN YOUR LIFE…. THAT LED TO NEW OPPORTUNITIES FOR YOU….. IN THIS INDUSTRY? ……. 


IF SO, PLEASE DESCRIBE THE MOMENT….



 


[[CHEF SHEWRY DISCUSSES]]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


FLOW STATE:



A FLOW STATE, ALSO KNOWN AS BEING IN THE ZONE…. IS THE MENTAL STATE WHEN A PERSON IS PERFORMING AN ACTIVITY….. AND IS FULLY IMMERSED…. IN A FEELING OF ENERGIZED FOCUS, CLARITY  AND ENJOYMENT…. IN THE ENTIRE PROCESS…..


IT DOESN’T FEEL LIKE WORK….IT’S EFFORTLESS ATTENTION….. THAT YOU’RE GIVING THE ACTIVITY…..IT’S A EUPHORIC FEELING… 


IT’S DURING THIS ALTERED STATE OF CONSCIOUSNESS…. THAT YOUR MIND FUNCTIONS… AT ITS PEAK….AND A SENSE OF HAPPINESS… FLOWS THROUGH YOUR BODY.


I’VE BEEN IN THIS STATE….


HERE’S THE EXAMPLE I USE FOR MY GUESTS:


I CAN GET INTO IT….. IF I’M AT MY RESTAURANT WHEN IT’S CLOSED…. AND I’M THE ONLY ONE THERE….I MIGHT BE WORKING ON NEW DRINKS FOR MY MENU….MUSIC IS PLAYING….

THERE ARE NO INTERRUPTIONS…JUST ME, INGREDIENTS….. AND THE SOUNDS…. AND  BEATS…. OF THE MUSIC...


AND THE RECIPES FLOW….IT DOESN’T FEEL LIKE WORK….



AS A CHEF, HAVE YOU EVER REACHED THIS STATE ?.....


IF YOU HAVE….PLEASE DESCRIBE YOUR SURROUNDINGS…. LEADING IT UP TO IT….



AND WHAT IT FELT LIKE…. BEING IN THAT STATE?


 


[[CHEF SHEWRY DISCUSSES]]






TAKEAWAY:


CHEF SHEWRY, THANK YOU FOR SHARING YOUR STORY WITH US …


I BELIEVE THAT THE JOURNEY…. IS ALWAYS GREATER THAN THE DESTINATION. 


IT’S ON THE PATH THAT WE LEARN….EVOLVE AND….. ENCOUNTER LESSONS…. THAT SHAPE US…. INTO OUR BEST SELVES.


I ALWAYS LIKE ENDING THE PODCAST…. BY ASKING…. IF THERE’S ANY TAKEAWAY THAT YOU’D LIKE TO LEAVE WITH LISTENERS…... THAT CAN POSITIVELY INFLUENCE THEIR LIVES.


IT COULD BE SOMETHING THAT WE JUST DISCUSSED…. A LESSON YOU’VE LEARNED ON YOUR JOURNEY…. OR GENERAL LIFE ADVICE THAT YOU LIVE BY ….…


 

 

[[CHEF SHEWRY DISCUSSES]]



AND WHERE CAN PEOPLE FOLLOW YOU  ?



[[CHEF SHEWRY DISCUSSES]]




OUTRO:


THANKS FOR LISTENING….AND IF YOU HAVEN’T ALREADY….... FOLLOW  “HAVE YOU EATEN YET?” ….WHEREVER YOU GET YOUR PODCASTS….




[[MUSIC]]



ATTICA’S EARLY DAYS
HOW TO BUY A RESTAURANT
DEPRESSION
IMPORTANCE OF BALANCE
CHEF’S TABLE
POST CHEF’S TABLE
AWARDS
NEW PERSPECTIVE ON AWARDS
COVID
COVID SUCCESS
NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCE
VIABLE BUSINESS
DESTINATION RESTAURANT
RESTAURANTS EVOKING EMOTION
FINDING INSPIRATION
FUTURE
SYNCHRONICITIES
FLOW STATE
TAKEAWAY