#wearenot9to5 Shane Harper

Updated: Aug 13, 2018

#wearenot9to5 is a series of mental health experiences from people in the F&B industry to fight the stigma & shame. Mental health affects us all.

Shane Harper @pastrypirate

Q: What are a few restaurants you've worked at?

A: Splendido, Nota Bene, Langdon Hall, The Grove & One.

Q: How has mental health affected your working experience in our industry?

A: My Mental health has shaped my career, or let’s say drastically overhauled my career by pushing me back to the source of where ingredients come from. But I’ll begin from the start...

While working at one resto, I was diagnosed with an extreme rare neurological syndrome called Miller Fisher syndrome, an auto immune disorder that attacks the nervous system. I had lost my ability to taste, could not walk without support and became cross eyed. I spent a week in the hospital, a month at home recovering, and it took about a year to recover fully. Well, everything except my sight. I now wear an eyepatch in order to correct my double vision.

This event was the catalyst to a deep depression; not because of my vision never returning, but because I no longer viewed the hospitality industry in the same way.

I began seeking answers to questions that never occurred to me before; where were my ingredients being grown, how were they being grown, what’s the difference between organic and non-organic agriculture, what are GMO's, and what were chemical pesticides and fertilizers. The answers to these questions completely changed me.

I started feeling very upset at the fact that I knew very little about ingredients and their origins, and even more upset that everything I was using was grown using poisons.

The next three years after were spent living with cognitive dissonance. One side of me tried to keep going, producing desserts as if nothing was wrong. And the other side of me, the new me waiting to take over, tried to show me that I needed to start over again from the very beginning. It was the only way to fully understand what it was I was meant to be doing.

So I taught myself how to grow vegetables organically, free of chemical pesticides and fertilizers, and then became an organic farmer as a consequence of needing to understand how my ingredients should be grown.

Q: If you could tell your apprentice or your younger self something, what would it be?

A: If I could tell my apprentice or younger self just one thing, it would be that life is about balance, if you don’t begin to find equilibrium, you’re going to find yourself not enjoying all life has to offer.

The kitchen is not everything, it’s a big part, but there’s more, trust me, you’ll see.