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Spotlight on chef Josh Eggleton in new TV series on dementia

June 11, 2019
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We speak to our brand ambassador, TV and Michelin starred chef Josh Eggleton, about an exciting new television series he’s in, The Restaurant That Makes Mistakes. This is where Josh takes on the role of restaurateur in the UK’s first ever pop-up restaurant to be staffed by people living with early onset dementia. Read on to find out more on what Josh has to say about this ground-breaking venture and how it aims to help the staff rediscover the people they used to be.

Where did the producers get their inspiration from for this idea? 

There was a pop-up restaurant in Japan,  the brainchild of Shiro Oguni, a Japanese TV director. His aim is to deepen awareness of dementia and change perceptions about the condition. The idea behind the restaurant is for people to learn more about the condition and reflect on it.

Why were you chosen to be involved?

Channel 4 were looking for an expert who knew how to operate a restaurant in Bristol. So, a producer I met, when I represented South West England on BBC2’s Great British Menu, put my name forward. I love teaching and training people so I just couldn’t say no. In addition, the project was in my hometown of Bristolwhich was perfect. After all, it would be a great way for me to engage with my local community.

Tell us what the show is about?

The Restaurant That Makes Mistakes follows a team of people who have little to no restaurant experience. However, they also have early onset dementia and will be coming to work in a pop-up restaurant. This programme explores the fact that, in the UK, a dementia diagnosis invariably means giving up work. However, the show’s producers wanted to explore how the workplace can affect early signs of dementia.

How does this help people with dementia?

The show’s main aim is to raise awareness of early onset dementia. Similarly, the producers plan to demonstrate how the many different types of dementia can affect people of varying ages. Initially, I must admit I already had my own idea of what a dementia diagnosis would mean. However, when working with everyone, I met people whose condition mainly affected their speech or vision. So, this series has completely changed my perception.

In fact, I found this learning experience so humbling when working with the team. In addition, as mentioned above, The Restaurant That Makes Mistakesexplores the effects a workplace has on people with early onset dementia. However, it looks at both the positive and negative effects. As a result, you’ll see how the workplace can be adapted to make it more suitable for people with early onset dementia. So, this way, a dementia diagnosis doesn’t mean your work self must cease to exist.

Style and glamour

Which experts does the show have on board to back this up?

CPL Productions, who created The Restaurant That Makes Mistakes, chose an expert, Zoe Wyrko, from another show you may have seen called Channel 4’s Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds. In fact, she’s a Consultant Geriatrician at University Hospital Birmingham.

 

What is your role in all of this?

I am, in fact, the restaurateur, which is what I am at any other site of mine, I suppose. So, I oversee every aspect of the restaurant from the menu, food prep and cooking to the front of house service and setting up the restaurant every day. However, in this case, the early onset dementia volunteers don’t have any restaurant experience. A few of them had worked in a kitchen before, but generally they were all novices when it came to hospitality.

How do you help these people exactly?

Now that’s a leading question! I wasn’t really there to ‘help’ them, per se. In fact, I was really there as their boss. So, I tried to support them rather than help them. I think that’s a better way to look at it.

As a result, I treated them just as I would anyone else. So, I’d get to know them, find out what they like or don’t like and what they’re good at. Then, I’d try to build on those strengths and weaknesses.
When we began training, many of the team were nervous or resistant because their sense of self-confidence was low. In fact, many of the volunteers had been sceptical about their ability to ‘pull it off’. On the flip side, however, some people were really determined to prove they could do it. However, what united them all was the root of their resistance or determination – their early onset dementia diagnosis.

What does a typical programme entail?

You’ll see the day-to-day running of a restaurant and all the trials and tribulations that come with that, be it a real restaurant or a televised one! Each episode also takes a deeper look into the lives of all the individuals who volunteered to work there. Everyone has their own very real and personal story which, amazingly, they all share on the show. As mentioned, my perception of what I thought dementia was, has been completely changed after working on the project. In fact, I could clearly see everyone’s experiences are completely different.

The show’s producers have done an amazing job of creating a programme about a really difficult subject matter. I think they have produced a deeply moving series filled with hilarious moments, too. In addition, they have highlighted the intricacies involved in the early signs of dementia. So, you’ll see The Restaurant That Make Mistakes combines the serious, very real things about living with early onset dementia with so much laughter, silliness and enjoyment. And you’ll see find that together, as a team, we created a pretty great restaurant, too!

Will any other TV personalities feature on the show?

The restaurant does have a few celebrity guests including the comedian, presenter and writer David Baddiel. There’s also the actor, Hugh Bonneville, best known for Downton Abbey and Paddington, or Notting Hill if that’s your era… and Countdown and 8 of 10 Does Cats Countdown’s Rachel Riley.

What can they expect from episode 2?

A seriously heart-warming and wrenching exploration of what it is like to live with dementia as well as staffing an entire workplace with a team of people who have the condition.

So, don’t forget to watch the first episode on Channel 4 On Demand, which aired at on June 12th, then look out for the next three episodes on Channel 4 every Wednesday at 9pm.

Photography: Channel 4/Joss Barratt

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