A huge welcome to Dan Churchill, our very first good sort for our good conversation series. I first met Dan serving him coffee at an Australian cafe in New York. Always happily working away on his laptop it’s not hard to see how this guy has blazed a delicious food trail through Australia and now America.
Read about how he got started, his motivations, struggles and advice for getting going
I actually have Dan to thank for giving me a final push to get this blog started so I’m stoked I can now share his story and advice with you.
Firstly, a bit of background, who is Dan Churchill?
hahaha great question, Mum still wants to know. I’m a Chef & Author with a Masters in Exercise Science. So its a bit of a mixed bag. If you were to go down to the market, its as if you picked up an assortment of colorful leafy greens and then purchased some pastry ingredients to combine them to make a sweet dessert. Although these days that is still very possible.
What’s your story? What has been your journey to get you to where you are?
Well I started cooking when I was 12 for the family, but didn’t do the traditional chef journey. I went through university really understanding the human body, how we move and how we are the way we are. It wasn’t until I self published my first cookbook Dudefood till I really went hard at the whole cooking thing. I got onto Masterchef Australia, before I wrote a 2nd book The Healthy Cook and got noticed in the US and signed a book deal to Simon & Schuster. From there I was fortunate to work on ABC’s The Chew and continue to do segments on Good Morning America. In that time I have written 2 more books and am now onto my 5th. I have been a Co-host of Surfing The Menu, Next Generation which took me to 11 countries in 2016, write a blog and have a very active digital channel in the Instagram & Youtube space. This journey now has me based in NYC working on my next show out of the US (watch this space), launching a restaurant in NYC and partnering with some amazing companies to make people happy through food.
Are there pivotal moments in your story or has it been gradually unfolding?
I think with any story there are major moments, but these are major due to the everyday low key box ticking actions that must take place. For example I write recipes almost every day, as an an author that is essential to understanding your vision and relation with your food. As a chef your in the kitchen constantly honing your skills or understanding flavor combinations (remember that leafy green dessert mentioned above 😉 ). These are every day tasks (or fun times-as I like to call them) that you must do to drive your message. Without them you wont get the pivotal moments, like the next book deal, restaurant signing, meeting some of the people you value in the industry or simply baking that special cake for your mother 😉 Every day is a learning curve and you will always have highs and lows, days that are super fast and days that are just fast hahah. Its how your attitude to these that will set us all apart.
What made you decide to enter Masterchef?
For me I am always looking to learn and push myself and Masterchef gave me the opportunity to do so in an environment that no chef could ever relate to. You are constantly under pressure learning on your feet and having to come up with creations in the blink of an eye. At the end of the day I just wanted to learn more, I was always going to come out of it writing more books so before I did so I thought I would put myself in the most hectic environment
You’ve now built your own brand, what was your motivation for starting it?
This is something I used to battle with for a while. As an Australian the idea of any remote egotistical attitude is often removed from our DNA. For me being the middle of three boys this was only more ingrained in me. But I have always been someone who adores empowering people. Some of the best conversations I have ever had are just about hearing others in what they want to do in this life. I realized that if I wanted to continue empowering people and ultimately making people happier through food then I had to create a message. Bound to that message there had to be a figure head to represent it, hence why it came down to me and my name. I am very stoked that I did as waking up to peoples social media love about recipes is one of the highlights to my week… its what inspires me. This part of my business had made me realize it is not egotistical, rather a strategy for the greater good of your message
What gave you the confidence to think you could do it?
I think secretly I have always wanted to be that person… and honestly i haven’t ever thought any other way. Its not a case of not doubting yourself, rather the attitude of actually doing something. I jumped on a plane to the US the very first time for a two week trip, not having a deal, but wanting to actually take action. I wake up every day wanting to make people happier and food is my tool to do that. I am motivated beyond belief to fulfill that. If I think of something that must be done I work out the pieces that need to go in place and in water order to ensure that box is ticked. How often do you hear of people saying they want to do something and then 6 months later still not doing it? You just have to give it a crack. I am a single young guy with really no responsibilities, so why not right? And at the end of the day I secretly really, really love my job. Its food… i cant lose
What have been your struggles?
Despite Australia and the US being two English speaking nations their cultures can be vastly different. Our jokes are not the same all the time. Simple ways of professionalism are different and I being a guy from the Northern Beaches of Sydney had to learn to stay who I am, but adapt to something different system. Never lose sight of who I am, but making sure to relate
Your biggest highs and lows creating and growing your own brand?
Well the answer above is something that takes time, and I had to be patient and ensure I could grow my message in a relatable way before doing anything and that was tough. There was plenty of research, analysis and simply time value that I had to be patient for. The highs… well there have been a few and they range in different ways. Having my book displayed in Times Square, appearing regularly on both The Chew and Good Morning America. Becoming an official Friend of Australia. Then you have the writing a forward to my family in a book. Visiting 11 countries in a year. Having my Nunna, Mum & Dad in one of my TV episodes… the list could keep going.
Where has all your learning taken place?
It continues to happen every single day. You should always be learning. For me I learn in the kitchen, from reading, from writing. Going exploring, chatting to people on a plane, listening to podcasts. There are so many aspects to this world and I am very intrigued as to purpose. How things were made. Why structures are designed in certain ways. You can never stop learning.
Did you ever have doubts along the way? If so how did you overcome them?
Not so much doubts, there are definitely road blocks, but the most important thing is to remember that no matter what, no one else is going to pick yourself up. You have to do it yourself. You can feel sorry for yourself, but until you actually take action that is when you can overcome your hiccups.
So you’ve got an idea, or a concept or passion, what’s your biggest piece of advice to get started?
ahhhh in the tag line of Nike “Just do it”. If you are truly passionate about something it will take you somewhere, it may be different to where you initially thought, but passion is infectious and does not lie. If you don’t know how to do something, find out how to do it. I think one of the best exercises my Dad ever disciplined me with was… If I did not understand a word he told me “go look it up in the dictionary.” With a little huff I would do so, but after reading the definition I realized there are 3 words in that description that I do not understand and so would have to look up those too. After 30 minutes I would finally get the original understanding and as frustrating as this was it taught me firstly resilience, but also if you want to do something but don’t know how, you must do a lot of research, listen, watch and read many passages, but eventually you understand how to get there.
How do you define success?
Success actioning a goal or achievement. Usain Bolt is successful in running the 100 meters. He has achieved a lot of success by winning a number of gold medals, but if he did not win the 100m at the Rio Olympics that is one less success in his life as his goals are to win. This does not mean he would have not been successful, it just means for this particular event it would not have been a success (For those playing at home he did win it). Success can be a gold medal, but it can also be found in every day life eg. making your bed, making a kick arse colorful lunch. Success is truly individualized and that is the most important thing.
What would be your life advice to young people?
Never change who you are, do something you truly want to do as people will find your passion infectious. If you do what you love, you will get up everyday super excited to fulfill every working hour. If you have an idea but waiting for the right moment pick up your pen right now and write down notes to get started. You are the one who is going to push your dream, not anyone else…. oh and happy cooking 🙂
Big thanks again to Dan for being our first feature for the Good Conversation series and providing some good quality chat.