Oakridge Wines apprentice chef George Wintle, 20, is set to launch Eat The Issue, a fundraising campaign for mental health.

The campaign will kick off with a charity dinner on Tuesday 23 October. Held in partnership with Melbourne-establishment Lee Ho Fook, proceeds raised at the event will be donated to Melbourne City Mission’s program for youth hospitality training.

The youth program titled HEAT (Hospitality Employment and Education), is designed as a practical way to engage with young hospitality workers from the ages 16 to 25. The six-month program offers kitchen operation training, career guidance, and ongoing counselling, empowering young workers to kickstart their career in the hospitality industry.

Wintle, who has worked in the industry since the age of 16, as witnessed first-hand the stress experienced by chefs. Through his Eat The Issue campaign, Wintle aims to tackle the stigmas associated with mental health by encouraging conversation and advocating for cultural change.

“The hospitality industry has a unique and brutal mentality where you put your head down, grit your teeth and say ‘yes, chef’ to every demand,” Wintle says.

“It’s ruthless, it’s cutthroat and completely unsustainable. It’s turning people away from the industry altogether. For those who do stay, they are subject to gruelling hours, low work-life balance and, in worst cases, verbal or physical abuse.

“There is no reason as to why hospitality workers must be ‘broken’ in order to succeed. It’s a thinly veiled bravado and its time to start talking about it.

“Losing industry legends like Jeremy Strode and Anthony Bourdain to suicide, I just felt like something needed to change. It made me realise even the most revered chefs are vulnerable.

“Change starts with a conversation, and the best conversations happen around food which is how Eat The Issue was born. It’s a platform where we can start having frank and open conversations over some soul-nourishing food.”

Tickets for the first Eat The Issue event are available here.

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