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From reality TV to entrepreneur; the rise of Hayden Quinn

Find out what inspires this ocean lover and sustainable living advocate

Eight years ago Hayden Quinn was a 22-year-old lifeguard at Sydney’s Manly Beach with a penchant for his mum’s cooking. Little did he know he’d soon become a household name.

“I’d traveled a lot and I loved food, and I saw the second season of (television series) Masterchef and I said, ‘Oh, I can do this. I love cooking. I did the application, sent a photo in, and away we went, he recalls.

“Life was changed.’’

Hayden didn’t win the cooking show, he came sixth, but he’s one of only a handful of reality TV stars who have gone the distance. Along with “foodie” (he’s had no formal cooking training), the Dee Why local lists lifesaver, gym owner, podcaster, presenter, brand ambassador and marine biologist on his bio. But what we’re most interested in is the conscious way he lives his life.

“For me personally, I think it (sustainability) means being conscious of the actions you take today that will impact your children and their children, at a very simple level,’’ he says.

“I ask myself, is me doing this going to change what might happen for my kids? And if I don’t do this, what is the impact, if that makes sense. It’s a very dynamic thing.”

Here we chat to Hayden about everything from his eco cooking challenges, why he won’t eat tuna and how he became the co-founder of a gym.

Hayden Quinn says he’s happiest by the ocean

We know you for your love of food on Masterchef, where did that come from?

I grew up in a family that loved food. There were no foodies back then, we were just people that loved wholesome food. Although in retrospect, my mum was an original foodie. She taught home economics, she worked at Taste Magazine. She was the cool food person before there was a cool food person.

How did your mum’s cooking inspire you?

I’d give mum an hour’s notice that all my friends were coming around and she’d manage to feed us all. I don’t know where it came from but there would be food and that was a skill I learned from her, using things that we’ve got instead of having to go out and buy more.

What does sustainability mean to you?

I think it’s different for everyone. I studied marine biology at university, so I’ve got an environment degree plus I’m in the food world. So I am very conscious of waste and using the food that you have.

What do we need to know about sustainable seafood?

I’m pretty selective on what fish I eat and where I get it from. I don’t eat any tuna at all particularly because of the fishing methods. There’s some great lists out there from Marine Stewardship Council, they’ll tell you; “these are good, these are not so great, and you should definitely not eat these.”

We’ve written before about how food waste contributes to one third of all landfill, do you have any tips for reducing food waste?

Sometimes Jax my girlfriend and I totally plan our week out and do a big itemised shop and then other times we just buy one carrot and one sweet potato and three mushrooms, and grab an eggplant from the roof garden and roast it and put it with some grains or whatever we have on hand. My favorite thing is to just go, “OK, we’re not doing any shopping. We’re just going to eat what we have in this apartment.

Hayden Quinn says his love of cooking is thanks to his mum’s ability to create a meal from whatever she has in the pantry

You own a gym! How did that happen?

The gym was pretty organic. My two best mates who are into personal training lived in Collaroy and they had this really old house with a massive backyard and we’d all just go around there and train. It’d be like three or four boys and a couple of the girls and it slowly just got bigger and bigger. One year we basically said, “I wonder what it would take for us to find a space to create this community?” We found a small little warehouse space, we outlaid a little money each, then we asked all our members to pay some money every week to pay rent and within two months, we had 80 members.

Who inspires you?

One of the guys that I’ve done a lot of work with and I really look up to is (former ironman) Trevor Hendy. I met him on my first TV job after Masterchef, we were on the Ironman series commentary team. Trev is a spiritual guru, he does some really amazing talks and workshops and does a lot of one-on-one counseling and all sorts of incredible stuff. He’s been there for me through a number of different things that have come up in my life, and always been like this spiritual counsel that I’ve needed. Not too airy fairy, just real and wise.

Your podcast the Roving Mic takes listeners on a journey with the people you interview in their natural environment. What’s your natural environment?

I think my favorite place to be is in the ocean, whether it’s swimming or surfing or paddling or surf ski or whatever it might be.

What’s the quirkiest location you’ve had for one of your podcasts?

I did one on a rowboat with Sarah Glover, which is really cool because it was dead still and you could hear the rollicks of the water and the birds in the background. That was very cool.

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