Life; it often has other ideas about itself than those we perceive.
This week I received the sad news about the untimely death of Matt Campbell, semi finalist on last years Masterchef The Professionals. It's fair to say that I spend most of my time thinking about food, love and healing, in fact the only times I really ever watch television, its usually a program invested in, or about one of those three things, Masterchef being one of them.
Personally there's not a great deal on there I love in terms of food I want to create; it's highly meat focussed so as a vegan and raw foodie, it rarely grabs me on that level, but the creativity I see always inspires me, so that's why I watch. Last year, Matt Campbell changed that for me.
Matt cooked with kombucha, spirulina, miso, chlorella, raw cacao, charcoal, and other superfood ingredients and he took risks. He presented plant based dishes made with 'weird' stuff to a mainstream audience and won their respect in doing so. The judges were often perplexed (not sure why as it's a foodie programme so surely the reach goes beyond meat and two veg?!!), the public were curious, but above all, Matt's soft and humble ways won people over.
After Masterchef aired, I contacted Matt via Instagram, and to my astonishment, he replied. He replied with the same humility I'd seen from him on the program; open, kind and generous with his time. We struck up an instagram 'friendship', I would chat with him about his recipes and even won his coveted Miso Souffle recipe in an Instagram competition. He sent it over to me requesting it wasn't shared as it had 'taken him years to perfect'. Reading that email now feels slightly surreal and I'm no longer sure if it's appropriate to share that now or keep it to myself as he requested?
After Matt was knocked out, I watched his Instagram account grow massively in the weeks that followed, heartened to know that more people may become open to cooking and creating with these kind of ingredients as a result of his work. He was overwhelmed by the responses he got on there, yet he still made time to talk to people. I told him "one day I will learn from you when you teach cooking workshops" and he laughed amiably, saying "no plans for that yet."
Then about 3 weeks ago, he came to Manchester to create food for the Real Junk Food Project, using marked for 'waste' ingredients from New Smithfield Market. His instagram story feed showing all this food waste shocked me. I messaged him about it.
"Please tell me that's not waste" I said.
He replied "It is, it's crazy! Our food system is crazy! It felt so good to cook for 50 people with food that would have been wasted." His enthusiasm for that was clear in his story feed. It's still there on his page but kind of painful to watch now.
I asked him if I could lend his voice to this if I started some food based activism around it. I wished him luck for the marathons.
Two weeks later and he is not here any more. Twenty nine years old and gone, just like that.
I felt such deep sadness at the unfairness of life.
Then I began to really think about what makes people exceptional instead of just good. Passion is what makes people exceptional, and I have that for my juices, my smoothies, my kombucha and healing tonic drinks. I've decided that I will go beyond 'good' at what I do and become exceptional. I will practice. I saw Matt practicing every single moment he could in his kitchen. Endless failures before discovering the one success, but that one success makes it all worth it, in fact, I'm starting to realise that every great creator works this way. They don't give up, they work hard to develop mastery and they are patient, really patient.
I'm currently developing a miso kombucha in Matt's name because I know how much he loved kombucha, and miso of course! I've started noticing an avalanche of recipe ideas coming through. All it takes is my attention, and if I am lucky enough to have life, and my health, then I will give my attention to all I do. Whether it's my yoga practice, my juicing, my food, my healing workshops, my friendships, it matters not. What matters is that I am present, that I give my f**king attention to these things that make up my life, because we just don't know when that moment may be taken from us right?
Rest in Love Matt, you were a real gentleman and a true inspiration. Thank you xox
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