There’s something undeniable about the Middle Eastern spice expert and celebrity chef, Shane Delia – a quality in his current possession that many of us aspire to earn: a strong sense of conviction.
The 37-year-old – who grew up in a Maltese household in Melbourne’s suburbs – has an innate understanding of who he is, what he wants and what he believes in - hard work, family, good physical and mental health, and the value of hospitality.
“‘Strength in hospitality’ – it’s our family motto and not something that is fabricated,” Shane says. “Hospitality is about giving without wanting to receive and is a basic rule to live by. We try and do the right thing by people and hopefully it comes back.”
‘Hospitality’, according to his holistic definition, extends well beyond the kitchen. As Shane currently attempts to expand his business ventures, he’s also involved in educating children about the importance of eating well and giving back to his community.
It’s this combination of family, food and charity that makes for a heart-warming storyline, as Shane’s personal and professional goals become the framework for a new television show airing on SBS this January.
Shane Delia's Recipe for Life weaves together a fascinating portrait of Shane’s energised life. The series follows the chef as he juggles the running of his hatted restaurant Maha, his brand-new venture about educating kids through food and business and the importance of eating well, as well as the creation of a new Biggie Smalls food van and a number of community initiatives for disadvantaged locals - there's a lot to juggle.
The lifestyle series does feature a few recipes from Shane’s day-to-day life but, the chef stresses with conviction, Recipe for Life is not a cooking show. "Yes there are recipes and I do cook them – there are some great dishes in there," Delia tells SBS. “But what I want is for people to get to know the people in the show. I want viewers to see the blokes at Sons of the West community group, to see the young kids we work with through the Feed the Mind program and City in the Community.”
The benefit of controlled chaos
Although Shane’s hospitable projects are admirable, the series begs a key question: how can one person aspire to do and juggle so much?
“People see the end result, they see where we are now but it hasn’t always been like this,” Delia answers. “I haven’t taken my foot off the pedal and have worked hard for 20-odd years to be in the position where I am now, where I have some financial and emotional stability. So I can still be busy and move at a million miles an hour, but have a good support structure that’s been built over decades.”
Technically, if Shane chose to, he could rest on his laurels today having already built a successful restaurant business.
‘Strength in hospitality’ – it’s our family motto and not something that is fabricated. Hospitality is about giving without wanting to receive and is a basic rule to live by. We try and do the right thing by people and hopefully it comes back.
But complacency and indifference are not what Shane is about, nor are they the qualities that his family raised him to have. As Shane’s dad and both sets of grandparents came to Australia as immigrants with very little, their success helped to instil in him, a strong work ethic and sense of accomplishment.
“We come from a race of people who have had to fight for everything that they got. And we really value the small things. I don’t have that generational security of finances that [the children of some non-immigrant parents have], knowing that everything will be fine. I find that a lot of people living in Australia who have lived a much more financially fortunate life don’t have the same drive. I don’t know if it’s a good or a bad thing – they seem to be pretty relaxed.”
The truth is, as Delia tells SBS, “I can’t get to the end of that pier, throw a line into it and then just stare at fish and relax. That’s not me. I’d go insane. A lot of people can and I sometimes think, ‘why can’t I do that?’
“But I need more…I am always looking at my kids and family thinking, ‘is this the best use of my time’? Could I be doing something more to give them better opportunities in life? I just want to know that I have done everything I can to enable them to be what they want to be.”
Recipe for Life is truly a product of Shane’s drive and incredible determination to live by his family and community values and to support them.
“I’m really proud of what I’ve done. I never want to create TV for the sake of creating TV. This is a show about people – and if anything it inspires [audiences] to feel that they can do some small things to make changes in their life, even if their life feels dire and they are at the end of their rope.”
You can follow Shane Delia via Instagram @shanedelia.
“Kiwifruit contains a natural enzyme that helps tenderise the octopus, so no cement mixers required here. With such simple ingredients, it’s important to use good quality Spanish sherry vinegar and olive oil because the warm potatoes will suck up all the flavours of the dressing.” Shane Delia, Shane Delia’s Moorish Spice Journey
“While these crisp lobster and prawn rolls taste nothing like a traditional Andalucian pringa, which usually involves lots of slow-cooked meat, they’re as crunchy and juicy as the real thing so I’m pretty happy with that. I’ve used lobster because I love its sweet, fleshy meat, but you could also use cooked prawns, yabbies or Balmain bugs to toss through the mayo.” Shane Delia, Shane Delia’s Moorish Spice Journey