2SCICHEFS: Finding friendship and following your passion after spinal cord injury

2 SCI Chefs Tony and Jon smiling

Read on for a Q&A with Tony and Jon, who started the social media community 2SCIChefs after finding a shared passion for cooking. The aim is to connect people through cooking, and empower others to follow their passion after spinal cord injury.

Tell us a bit about yourself

Tony: I’m a 40-something, who’s worked a lot in the hospitality sector. I used to fly cabin crew. Fun fact, I’ve worked in the hotel where they filmed The Shining – it’s quite spooky!

Jon: So, I’m a development chef for an aquarium in Hull. I was the head chef there prior to my spinal cord injury, and since then the team created this new role for me. This has been very good – I create new products for events and do a lot of work around sustainability.

What was life like pre-injury?

Tony: After working as cabin crew I became a concierge for American Express, ran several companies at once, and lived a very active life. I loved travelling too, and ran a pub with my ex-partner, where I managed the food.

Life was fast-paced. I worked really hard, regularly doing 50/60 hour weeks and long shifts for events and weddings. But I also travelled a lot, visiting my mum in Majorca, and going on long-distance holidays to places like Las Vegas.

How did you sustain your spinal cord injuries?

Tony: I had osteomyelitis between levels L1 and L4. This is a bone infection, and by the time I was examined I was incontinent and couldn’t walk. I’m now use a wheelchair. I have no feeling in my right lower side, and my back is numb.

Jon: My injury came out of nowhere in 2018. I was ill while on holiday in Vegas for my wife’s 40th – I seized up, in a lot of pain, and lost control of my bladder. After an emergency MRI scan the hospital discovered a tumour on my spinal cord. They removed the tumour, but I was left with the after effects – I can walk but after a year of trying to push myself I’ve decided to use a wheelchair to keep pain levels down.

What impact did your injuries have, and how did you adjust?

Tony: My spinal cord injury changed everything. I felt like I didn’t know my body and had to learn everything again – brushing my teeth, going to the loo, getting out of bed. It was like being born again.

Thankfully, I had Back Up. I had a mentor, and talking to her was like a light was switched on again. She gave me what I needed to start figuring things out.

My injury was a massive shock. I had to learn how to walk again, which was a massive struggle. There’s a lot of things that you wouldn’t expect, like bladder and bowel care.

I got in touch with Back Up because I was struggling, mentally and physically. So I accessed the mentoring service, which was a great help – you can talk about anything with someone who understands.

I also went on a recent Exmoor Multi Activity Course, which was great! After my injury I was frustrated about not being able to use a bicycle, but the Multi Activity Course was a safe environment where I could try out adaptive cycling – it was perfect.

After going on the Multi Activity Course, I knew I wanted to take on another challenge. So, I’m currently preparing for the Snowdon Push 2022. ‘Stiff Peaks’ had to be the team name – like meringues or mountains! While it’s still in the planning stages, I’m so excited about raising money for Back Up’s life-changing services.

What inspired the creation of 2SCIChefs?

Tony: When I was speaking to Jon, I mentioned that I was a pastry chef. We bounced some ideas around, and set up our social media accounts. At the time Jon was doing a 100 recipes in 100 days challenge, so that’s how we started.

Now we have Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube channels. We do two cooking livestreams a month, and we occasionally run cook-alongs for the Back Up Lounge.

Due to the pandemic, people were looking for distraction so we’ve gained an active following. If we can get one person with a spinal cord injury interested in cooking, then it’s all worth it. 2SCIChefs is all about showing people how they can adapt to their situation and continue following their passion.

How has 2SCIChefs helped you after spinal cord injury?

For me, it’s shown that I can still cook after spinal cord injury. I now have the “oomf!” needed to get up and go. I never thought I’d be cooking all sorts of things live on social media – but 2SCIChefs has given me the confidence and gumption needed to do it. My love of cooking is back.

Jon: 2SCIChefs is a really positive community. If you’re having a rubbish week, cooking can take your mind off things.

We want to work closer with Back Up in the future – the more people with a spinal cord injury we can inspire to get cooking the better. Cooking helps so much with physical and mental wellbeing.

We’re glad that Tony and Jon have rediscovered their love of cooking after spinal cord injury. Follow 2SCIChefs on social media, and find out more about how our services can support you.