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Chef tackles hospitality alcoholism

Published: 1:16PM Thursday August 12, 2010 Source: ONE News

  • Michael Quinn (Source: Breakfast)
    Michael Quinn - Source: Breakfast

Twenty years ago Michael Quinn was head chef at a London five-star hotel, cooking for the Queen and appearing on numerous TV shows, but just a few years later, he became a homeless drunk.

Now he's in New Zealand to try and help those in the hospitality industry steer clear of alcoholism and talk to the homeless about turning their lives around.

He said his alcoholism spiralled into an addiction before he knew it and eventually, it completely took over his life.

"I became a failed father, failed husband and a failed chef."

He said he doesn't blame the hospitality industry for his addiction, but believes it made him predisposed.

"Hospitality is a work hard, play hard culture along with many other industries.

"I developed this enormous capacity for drinking but it eventually caught up with me and I paid the price."

Three years after he finished working at prestigious London hotel The Ritz, he lost a job at another London hotel because, he said, his addiction made him "totally unreliable".

That's when he hit rock-bottom - his wife left him and he got kicked out of a Coventry dry-house for drinking.

"I embarked on a full-time drinking career.

"I ended up on the streets and I was mixing with the criminal fraternity, doing all sorts of stuff to get money for alcohol."

He had his last drink in 1996 and said his life had improved markedly since then.

Now he's on a mission to create awareness in the hospitality industry and stop other chefs from falling down the same dark hole.

"The younger we teach people about what happens when we drink, the better it is."

He said people needed to pay attention to the early warning signs.

"If anyone ever comments on your drinking, the spliffs you're smoking, other drugs you might be using, you need to look at it. Because other people, they notice first."

Quinn had established the Ark Foundation, a charity to take an awareness seminar on alcohol and drugs to Britain's catering colleges.

The foundation had since run seminars at 300 colleges, in front of 20,000 students.