“Giving back”, particularly during Covid-19 when many restaurants struggle to survive, is more than an act of kindness in the moment. For Chef, Dan Lange, it is an abiding passion and commitment. Not only as a “teacher of cookery and hospitality” across Australia but also as founder of BeeNourishedByronBay, dedicated to transforming lives through the practice of nutrition, health, wellness, and sustainability.
“It is all-important to send a message of hope to all restauranteurs, cafes and anyone in the food industry which shows an appreciation for the work they do”.
Saw for himself how high pressure severely impacted mental health
Support is needed more than ever before. Those who work long, non-stop shifts in a restaurant kitchen can all but simmer and boil as much as their pots and pans clatter on the hob. Pinchpoints of stress tighten as the race to ‘plate up and send out’ reaches critical mass. During his early years as a chef, Dan would often work “60 hours for 40 hours pay” and saw for himself how high pressure and stress severely impacted the physical and mental health of his work colleagues: “Chefs have to work sometimes twice as hard as other professions to earn a dollar”.
With now more than two decades of experience in the food, health and wellbeing industry, Dan Lange is doing more than giving back to the industry “all the knowledge learnt over all the years in the kitchen”. Today, his specialist health coaching and nutrition courses – based on Ayurvedic teachings and practice at his global wellness retreats – are “about nourishing your mind, body and soul, and healing the gut through positive food choices”.
But how did it all start for Dan and what life-lessons did he learn that can help us all de-stress and relax in these heightened times?
Doing a degustation matching menu with Luke Magnan was “such a buzz”
Dan recalls as a young boy, he “had quite a few allergies”, and, therefore, conscious of and “valuing his health”. Soon, he could be found “always playing around in the kitchen, learning how to make things taste delicious by substituting different products”. His feeling of being naturally at home in the kitchen led, at 18 years old, to his first restaurant job.
“In 1999, I walked to the front of Luke Magnan’s ‘Salt’, the best new restaurant in Darlinghurst, Sydney… and asked for a job”. Dan remembers that, at first, all the hotel chefs simply laughed at the young man! However, he was invited by the head chef Mark, to start in the kitchen for a hats off award dinner, and having gone well, asked to return the next day. Arriving in the morning Dan saw Jamie Oliver was in the kitchen doing a degustation matching menu with Luke Magnan which, for the aspiring young chef, was “such a buzz”. Dan was hired.
From there, Dan went on to finish his apprenticeship at Tetsuya’s, a 3 Hat restaurant in Sydney, and continued building his cheffing experience over the next 10 years. The UK, Europe and later the world, beckoned. Dan recalls this period was another huge learning curve in his life,“ I was managing five chalets in Meribel, France, working on private yachts in the Mediterranean and then three years managing a health retreat in Portugal, focusing on food as medicine. It also meant for Dan, “combining his love for surf, good food and yoga” – and a sign of things to come.
‘Whole-body’ healing restores the delicate balance between mind, body and spirit
Working next in India, Dan began studying Ayurvedic medicine, massage and food whilst practising yoga, and creating menus that balance a client’s dosha (bodily energy) to restore health and wellbeing. Ayurveda is a system of ‘whole-body’ healing that restores the delicate balance between mind, body, and spirit. Using complex herbal compounds and minerals, a diet involves eating or restricting certain foods based on an individual’s dosha, or body type.
Returning from Portugal and India, Dan worked in London with leading chefs like Jamie Oliver and Rick Stein. But Dan knew that he had to follow a new path. In 2009, he moved to Byron Bay to run the Beach Cafe and started teaching at Wollongbar TAFE, NSW. Dan continues to this day being a part time TAFE teacher in commercial cookery training up the next up and coming apprentices and chefs in the region.
At the same time, Dan started offering private catering, and running a series of local community programmes, including sustainable food choices and men’s health.
“I wanted to give back to the industry all the knowledge I learnt over the years in the kitchen… and to follow my dream of running global wellness retreats”
Trained understanding in recognising signs of stress or depression
Now Dan has created retreats in Australia, and worldwide, with a firm focus on gut health and healing through personalised food choices. Dan’s lifelong passion is clear, “Food is my medicine. I use plant based food to nourish the body, mind and soul, and believe in the ‘gut-brain axis’ – that everything we eat will directly affect our mind too”.
In just the last 4-5 years Dan has worked on programmes such as, ‘Love food, Hate waste’, healthy lunch boxes in schools and incorporates sustainable healthy living and eating practices in all his cooking. Dan is also a trained mental health officer, with a specialist understanding in recognising signs of stress or depression. Away from the kitchen, Dan creates ‘balance’ in his day by his love of regular exercising, running, swimming, going to the gym, as well as meditating and surfing.
Dan’s lifelong belief is, “Bee the change you wish to see in the world”, and offers this valuable advice to aspiring young chefs, “Show your boss that you are of high value to his team”, and most importantly, “Ask questions, always be helpful, listen and have a notepad in your back pocket. Turn up on time, learn the recipes, be productive, show integrity, study hard, work hard”.
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Dan on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/beenourishedbyronbay/