“Great Canadian Baking Show” judge Bruno Feldeisen was named one of the Top 10 Pastry Chefs in America by Chocolatier Magazine two years in a row and has been nominated twice for the James Beard Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef. He has been featured in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Gourmet Magazine, Bon Appetit Magazine and New York Magazine. Bruno has multiple television appearances including Chopped, Beat Bobby Flay, Doughnut Showdown and Sweet Genius. He is also an Anxiety Canada Champion.
In this podcast Bruno shares how he has struggled with anxiety throughout his life, and is thriving today after having overcome a bout of serious panic attacks that nearly ended his career. Today, he says, he wants to “show that you can still be a good father, you can still be a good husband, you can still be great employee if you have anxiety.”
John Bateman (JB): Welcome Bruno! You’re listed in my notes as a “celebrity chef and Anxiety Canada Champion”.
Bruno Feldeisen (BF): Who brought that?
JB: Well, you’re a chef and you’re on TV.
BF: Yeah. People are sometimes called a celebrity chef, but I that call I’m still a chef.
JB: Bruno, what’s your anxiety story?
BF: I can remember having anxiety almost since almost I was born. I think what the key is to learn how to live with it and how to learn not to let it prevent you from living a normal life. So that’s the biggest challenge always. You know, people look at me and say, ‘Oh my God, you’re on TV, you do all those fantastic things and you’re kidding me, you have anxiety’. I say, ‘Yeah, I do’. Sometimes I wonder what I could have achieved if I did NOT have anxiety!
JB: Yeah, that’s an interesting way of looking at it. So on your track to where you are now, what was that path like?
BF: 20 years ago I reached the top of my profession. I was in New York. I did have anxiety, but it didn’t prevent me from doing anything. And then at some point I started to have anxiety attacks – I mean, highs level of anxiety. And from being on the top, I took a huge dive. I couldn’t hold a job, couldn’t find a job. I was backed into a corner and I couldn’t get out.
JB: Yeah, definitely. And so from there you hit I guess what you consider to be rock bottom. What kind of informed voice brought you back to where you knew you could be?
BF: I became a father for the first time when I was 42 years old. Holding my son in my arms, I told myself: what I experienced in life, he doesn’t have to suffer from it. And I decided, I need to find a solution for my own issues. I met a fantastic therapist who introduced me to CBT, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
BF: Also because of my childhood, one thing I never wanted to do is to be on a prescription for anxiety. I always told myself from day one I would rather suffer and be myself than be on a prescription and not be myself. CBT makes sense of my problems, and shows me a way forward how I can address it. It was not easy, but I could see the progress. Unfortunately, therapy is not cheap in Canada – it does cost quite a lot of money. In a country like this, we should be able to access it for free all the time.
JB: Yeah. Considering considering the many studies showing how effective CBT is, it’s quite interesting how difficult it is to find a therapist. I think mental health should be accessible for all, and for free. Nobody should have to pay for this and that way. That would be a tremendous help for society in many lovers from drug abuse, sexual abuse to homelessness if we had access to free and restricted mental health.
BF: Oh, totally agree. Because when you look at mental health and the trickle down effect it has on the medical system now it’s huge.
JB: Right. Yeah. We just need to take a walk to Vancouver’s East Side to understand the mental health problems we have in Vancouver, but there is no politician who wants to touch it.
BF: I understand that frustration when you have anxiety, to want to grab a drink, two drinks, three drinks because you need to get out of that moment. You know? And I know drugs can be a great escape, but I’m lucky because I never gravitated to this. If I had, I wouldn’t be where I am today. So that’s why I know we need to address the situation before, not after.
JB: It’s interesting you mentioned not turning to drugs and alcohol. What’s there within you? Was there a certain amount of stubbornness as well that just stopped you from doing that?
BF: It was because of my experience as a kid. I was raised by a single mom who used drugs. I abused drugs when I was a kid. So I knew the feeling. I know it can feel very good, but I knew that because of my mom, my mother’s abuse – frosting me to take sleeping pills when I was 10 or 11 years old. I knew how wrong it was because she died from an overdose.
BF: So I know, I know, you know, I’ve seen stuff, the museum of drug abuse when I was a kid. For me now I want to own my moments.
JB: how did your association with Anxiety Canada come about?
BF: The Vancouver Sun approached me a couple of years back and asked if they could write an inspiring story about me. And I was a bit like, ‘I don’t know, I don’t want to share my problems’. But ultimately the convinced me to explain my whole life, how I came up, about everything. Having a platform, being on TV, more people know me and I don’t hide from them. Yeah, I still struggle with anxiety, I do have PTSD. And you, reader or viewer, don’t need to be ashamed. I think we live in a society where nobody wants to be known as having a mental health issues because you’re seen as a weak person. But for me, there’s always no shame. I want to show that you can still be a good father, you can still be a good husband, you can still be great employee if you have anxiety.
JB: Well, you’re helping tremendously with Anxiety Canada and we certainly appreciate it. Thanks again for being part of this event. It’s, it makes a huge difference.
BF: You’re very welcome. And I’m always around if you need to reach me and I’m always happy to speak up and to share my experience.
JB: Thank you very much. Take care.