Hurricane chef chops down employment barriers in finding his recipe for success
Nate is a fully trained chef. He also happens to be legally deaf and blind, but that’s never stopped him chasing his culinary dreams and becoming an inspiration to many in the process.
Finding ways to fearlessly achieve goals, people with disability are using talent and determination to usher in a new era for employment. Combining that drive with an ever-increasing array of supports, people are finding ways to achieve their dreams.
Super chef Nathan “Nate” Quinell is just one example of a person with disability chopping through barriers on the way to reaching his goals. Fuelled by the “never give up” fortitude of his hero, Reuben “Hurricane”
Carter, who maintained hope despite spending nearly 20 years in jail for a crime he didn’t commit, Nate echoes the drive of the former boxing champion with his fearless approach.
Add in his persona as the “Hurricane Chef”, in honour of Carter, Nate is a dedicated and determined professional who simply won’t settle for a no.
“I like to be called The Hurricane Chef because at a young age when I still had sight, I saw the movie The Hurricane, and I found it so inspiring, it stuck with me,” Nate said. “I really enjoyed his passion, and he
never gave up. I have my own gym at home and I like boxing, so for me, I chop, chop, chop’, and ‘punch, punch, punch’ through and I never give up either’.”
True to his word, Nate never has, which the world can now see through his starring role in Feros Care and Screenworks’ Fearless Film, “Plating Blind”. Hailing from the Taree region of New South Wales, Nate, 34, has loved fresh
produce and creating with food for as long as he can remember.
Now completely blind and utilising a guide dog, Nate also lives with Diabetes and two cochlear implants which allow him to hear, but it was childhood memories of life and food from when he still had his sight which are forever burned into his memory.
“I always wanted to be a chef, and as a kid growing up on farmland, I always enjoyed campfires and camp ovens,” Nate said. “I really enjoyed back when I could see and watching Jamie Oliver cook, I grew a passion from there.”
Like many with disability who chase their dreams, however, the road hasn’t been easy for Nate, who shows despite great strides in acceptance and improved employment pathways for people with disability, we still have a long way to go.
For the 2.1 million Australians of working age with disability, the rate of employment is far below that of people without disability, and for those aged between 15 and 64 years with disability, lower labour force participation (53.4%) and
higher unemployment rates (10.3%) compared with people without disability (84.1% and 4.6% respectively), is representative of the challenges faced.
Concerning also is that for people with disability of working age, under half are employed (47.8%), compared with 80.3% of people without disability.
Reminded of these roadblocks and the torment he himself faced before and after leaving school, Nate said it was staying positive and finding ways to make his dream happen which saw him move down a path of making his own way.
“I did go through depression when I was younger; I received a bit of teasing and bullying at school and through my teenage years,” Nate said. “With diabetes, I once had an Insulin low-sugar Hypoglycaemia and went through the
shower screen, hit my head on the toilet and cut my head open… there’s been different things like that.
“After leaving school, I was fortunate to gain a Disability Apprenticeship as a Chef at Manning Base Hospital, but after completing it I found it very difficult to find employment. So, months later after a lot of planning, with the
assistance of family and friends, I opened my own Cafe – Nate’s on Old Bar.”
After three years of making his dream happen, Nate’s eyesight completely deteriorated, which left him with no option but to close the café. However, driven by his “never give up” attitude combined with a move to the northern
Gold Coast after becoming an uncle, the loss of his sight was never going to stand in Nate’s way, regardless of how many knockbacks he received.
While every story has a beginning, it also has a long middle which shapes the future for the end. With a middle full of wins and losses, Nate has remained true to himself and like the legendary boxer he mimics, with every knock down, he gets right
“I’ve had a lot of knockbacks and bad experiences, where I’d turn up to an interview and they’d realise I’m blind and ask why I didn’t mention it,” he said. “I’d put it in applications and
despite my qualifications, different places would knock me back; there was even times I’d go to an interview with my guide dog, and they’d say, ‘we can’t employ you, we don’t have dogs in the kitchen’.
“And a lot of people, regardless of whether they’re support workers or staff, I don’t think a lot of them are sure how to approach me. Needing to have a support worker, a lot of the time they talk to them instead of me,
even though I’m right there.
“But you find ways to do things and get things done and being knocked back, I always kept trying, and I wanted to prove I’d never give up.”
Feros Care is here to help
Getting it done, literally, Nate has combined the support of the NDIS and disability employment pathways, which are assisting people to reach their goals. With more options and clearer pathways becoming more available, people with disability
like Nate are not only thriving, but are being empowered by playing an active role in forming the supports and solutions required to thrive, as seen in Feros Care and Multiple Solutions’ Your Disability Your Way guide.
Through collaborating with people with disability, the guide offers a voice for overcoming roadblocks and the promotion of self-advocacy and inclusivity to achieve employment, volunteer, work or study goals. For Nate, employment pathways
and supports such as this are crucial, as is the availability of practical equipment for people with disability, which assists him to shine as the weekend chef at a Disability Care Residence in southern Brisbane.
Candid in his approach to smashing stereotypes to get to this point, Nate has any “but how can you be a chef, you’re blind?”, questions well and truly covered. Other common questions such as “how could you get a food license
if you can’t see?”, are easily answered for Nate, who proves with the right equipment, support, belief and opportunity, talent can well and truly shine.
“With getting a food and safety license, I got a lot of the information via audio as I couldn’t read it, so I’d say it out loud and someone would write it all down for me,” he said. “I learnt a lot of it practically through
my apprenticeship at the hospital where hygiene and standards were very strict, so I’ve always stuck to that strict approach and routine.
“I use equipment like “Furi” knives which have a deeper blade which is much larger, so you can run it up and down the side of your hand easier. I also use a “Talking Temperature Pro” to find out the temperatures of food,
and I use talking measuring scales, and a liquid measurer, which you can sit on side of cup or saucepan and put liquid in and it beeps when it’s full.
“I also have a support worker supporting me who can assist with practical things like choosing the yellow capsicum and not the red one, the curry from the other sauces, or checking I haven’t missed a spot when I sweep and mop the floor.
“It’s about trust, and with the right understanding, people can succeed regardless of their abilities.”
How to succeed with a disability
It’s the word “success”, which perhaps resonates the strongest for Nate, who isn’t simply content with his own. For what wheelchair tennis superstar Dylan Alcott does in showing what can be done in the sporting arena,
Nate wants to mimic that in employment through assisting the current and future generation of people with disability to have the belief and support to reach their own dreams.
Receiving an AMP grant, Nate set about documenting recipes and photography with the assistance of family, to complete and publish his very own cookbook.
The cookbook, which is full of 80 recipes, tips and tricks, and food philosophy, is assisting people with vision impairments to find the right ingredients for building capacity in the kitchen, in the same way Feros Care is helping people to shine
through film and book series, Look n’ Cook.
Filmed in partnership with South Australia’s City of Playford Council, the project, designed to provide an accessible cookbook for those with intellectual and cognitive disabilities to follow simple steps with guided pictures, has delivered
delicious recipes across a five-part series.
Also sharing his knowledge via podcasts, Nate has recently joined with Carers Queensland to support those with disability to create and run their own business and is assisting children to learn their craft in the kitchen.
“It’s (assisting) an inspiration for me, and I want to inspire others to know that regardless of their challenges, they can succeed,” he said. “There’s more acceptance for people with disability in the workforce, but
we’re a fair way from home still, so, I’m always looking to help people.
“People with disability are capable, and our capabilities are much higher than people sometimes may think… there’s a few things where people may need a little bit of help to get through challenges along the way, but if supported,
it’s all possible, and we can make it and show people that it is possible.”
“So, keep looking, and maybe try a support group, or different agencies and employment services, searching on the internet, and attend different events and try different things.
“Never give up…. I can do it, and we all can do it.”