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Miguel Maestre opens up about the dark side of life in the kitchen

The Living Room star talks mental health and representing RUOK? on I'm a Celeb.
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To call Miguel Maestre upbeat would be an understatement.

The 40-year-old celebrity chef is a contagious ball of energy, always smiling, laughing and ready to crack a joke.

But despite his apparent boundless enthusiasm – “It’s my Spanish flair,” he offers – Miguel is no stranger to struggle in his life.

“A lot of my friends have had serious mental health issues and lost their battles,” Miguel says.

“So when I had the chance to go on I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here! and represent my charity, RUOK?, it was a no-brainer.”

RUOK? is an Australian non-profit suicide prevention organisation that encourages people to have conversations – before it’s too late.

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Miguel Maestre represented the charity RUOK? on I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here!

(Source:Network 10)

With his background in hospitality, The Living Room co-host has seen first-hand why chefs are so at risk of mental health issues.

“The deadlines, the pressure, the isolation – it creates a battle,” Miguel says.

“It’s an industry that breeds stress – ‘Will we be busy? Are there any bookings? ‘Will we make money?’ I’ve been through it.

“Add that to the fact that men don’t like to open up about their feelings and suddenly you can be in a dark place and not know how to find a way out.”

The Living Room co-host has seen first-hand why chefs are so at risk of mental health issues.

(Source: Network 10)

The deaths of several high-profile identities in the past few years have rocked the restaurant industry.

The cooking world was shocked when American chef, author and TV personality Anthony Bourdain took his own life last year.

Closer to home, Miguel was in mourning when fellow celebrity chef Justin Bull was found inside his Sydney cafe last February.

“He wasn’t my best friend, but I knew him,” Miguel recalls.

“Just before he passed away, Chris [Brown] and I went to Justin’s restaurant and he came and had a chat to us. He looked normal and healthy, and that’s the thing: you never know what’s going on behind closed doors.”

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It’s for this reason that Miguel wants to use his platform on I’m A Celeb to get a conversation happening that could help save lives.

“You work in this crazy environment,” he says. “It’s high-energy, but it’s long hours too, and you burn out from the pressure.

It’s why things such as RUOK? are so important, because the first step to getting better is to start talking.”

For Miguel, talking has never been an issue, and when it comes to his feelings, the chef has been sure to put a solid system in place.

“My friend Barry [Du Bois, a co-host with Miguel on lifestyle show The Living Room], is someone I speak with often,” Miguel says.

“If I’ve had a bad day or something is getting me down, I’ll reach out to him. He’s always so helpful and a great listener.

“And my wife Sascha is very good at getting me to open up.”

Miguel’s wife Sascha is good at getting her husband to open up.

(Source:Instagram/ @thecrazybull)

As talk turns to Miguel’s loved ones, the motormouth chef finally seems lost for words.

While he declares swimming with crocodiles or eating cockroaches on I’m A Celeb won’t faze him − “They’re just like oysters, but from the land!” he says of the roaches − the thought of farewelling family is tough.

“I’m scared of missing the family,” he confesses.

“I’ve never been away from my two kids for this long.

“I’m dreading the goodbye at the airport. I’m not sure how I’ll handle it; I’m trying to stay positive.”

Miguel knows that if he can outlast his famous fellow campers, there’s a huge prize at the end.

“To take home $100,000 for RUOK? will mean so much to me − and them − so for that, I’ll be able to withstand anything,” he says.

If you need support, please call Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14.

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