“I love cooking, anything with fire and flames,” smiles 36 year-old Brisbane chef, Renee King. “But I hate pastries and desserts!”
Fortunately for Renee, the menu at Cedar & Pine – the award-winning bar where she’s worked for the past six years with the support of Omnia Inclusive – is a ‘dessert free zone’.
For most of her adult life, Renee has wrestled with major depression and other mental health conditions. Through the inevitable ups and downs, one thing that’s never wavered is her love for food. “My passion has always been cooking, I love it to bits. I started way back when I was 16, doing my first-year apprenticeship at school,” Renee explains. “Now I can’t think of doing anything else. Seeing the happy faces when people get their food, the rush I get from the service, how fast paced it is. Cooking is everything to me!”
It was precisely this passion that helped Renee secure her chef position at Cedar & Pine, as Daniel Valkenburg, her long-term Workplace Consultant at Omnia Inclusive explains. “Back when Cedar & Pine first opened, we dropped in for a drink one Friday afternoon and had a great chat with the owner, Mali Hannun,” remembers Dan. “It’s just around the corner from our office, so we got to know Mali and her business quite well. About a year later, Mali had a need for an inhouse chef and Renee ticked all the boxes, so we put her forward and it all worked out from there.”
“The day of her interview, Renee arrived in full chef’s outfit complete with her own set of chef’s knives,” recalls Dan. “We were super impressed, it showed just how serious she was. Mali saw that too and came back to us the next morning, ‘Yeah, we love her. She has the job’!”
Renee still has her good days and her not-so-good days. But her confidence and responsibilities continue to grow. “When you find the right work crew like I have, it really gives you a boost. I think I’ve stepped up a lot,” Renee says. “I’m chipping in more across other parts of the business. I’ve started coming out of the kitchen to see how our guests enjoy their meals and get their feedback. That’s also helped me with opening up and communicating in my personal life – something I’ve often had trouble with because of my depression. It’s had a really big impact.”
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