September 5, 2015
MALCOLM Bain was born to be a chef, and he remained a professional to the end, supervising his last orders from a wheelchair.
Malcolm died on Monday, August 24, a day short of his 47th birthday.
Four days earlier, he had been in a Wonthaggi kitchen cooking Indian curries for a function for 40 people. After the last curries and condiments had been dispatched, he went outside for a smoke and then took to his bed in exhaustion. The next day he was taken by air ambulance to The Alfred hospital where he died three days later of multiple organ failure. “The spirit was willing but his body was just worn out,” his mother, Annie Bain, said.
Malcolm was born with an auto-immune condition and battled ill health for much of his life. Having already survived many serious illnesses, he wasn’t afraid of death. He died after a happy period of his life that included working at the Archies Creek pub.
“He loved it,” Annie says. “He loved all his jobs. He never let his illness get him down. He was always an optimist. He was always planning the next thing.”
His work took him to Sydney, Queensland, South Australia, Melbourne, but for the past few years he’s been based back in Wonthaggi, where he grew up.
The owners of the Royal Mail pub in Archies Creek, Liane and Matt Arno, first learned of Malcolm through an article in the Post last July. Liane says it was “a marvellous serendipity” as Trevor, the publican, was looking for someone to take over cooking at the hotel.
She recalls introducing the two men and feeling some trepidation. “Trevor’s a great big bear of a man, 6 foot 3. Malcolm was a diminutive fellow who thought of himself as a giant. I looked at them sizing each other up and thought it would never work. But they struck a happy relationship in the end.”
Liane and Matt also developed a wonderfully easy-going relationship with Malcolm. What impressed Liane most was his determination. “He was in so much pain but he never admitted it. He just had this tenacity.” She laughs and adds: “By the same token he could be an absolute pain in the neck.”
It’s a sentiment with which his family and many of his workmates from 30 years of cooking concur. As news filters out, Annie has been receiving calls from around the country from chefs recalling his extreme messiness, his self-belief and his absolute dedication to his craft.
At the Royal Mail, Malcolm jazzed up the pub menu and introduced special events, including degustation dinners. When he had a bad fall and fractured his humerus and pelvis in March, the timing couldn’t have been worse: the first degustation dinner was just weeks away and 50 guests had booked.
“Malcolm said I’d have to do it,” Liane said. “He’d done a bit of a menu but Malcolm’s idea of a menu is spidery writing on scraps of paper covered by orange marmalade and coffee rings. I was supposed to make sense of it. I tried to cobble it all together but I’m no chef. As soon as he was back in the land of the living he was telling me where to buy the ingredients and what to mix.
“All he wanted to do was get back in time for the dinner. That was Malcolm’s motivation to get out of hospital. He arrived back in the kitchen in a wheelchair that morning and immediately started issuing orders.”
Almost six months later, you can still hear the combined exhaustion and exhilaration in Liane’s voice. “Anyway we managed it and I think everybody really appreciated the food.” Malcolm’s appearance at the dinner that night prompted a round of applause from the dinner guests.
But the fall took its toll. In June, Malcolm had a seizure and spent several weeks in hospital. When he got out, he wasn’t well enough to continue cooking pub food but took up catering under the name Grimbles Creative Catering, named for one of his favourite childhood books, Clement Freud’s Grimble, about a kid who becomes a chef.
He soon won a council catering contract and dispatched three successful orders, including that last Indian curry lunch. “They just adored the food,” Liane said.
Grimbles Creative Catering will live on under the new owners of the Archies Creek pub, John Reid and Amy Wallace.
In a final delicious twist to the story of Malcolm Bain’s life, he left both Annie’s and Liane’s freezers fully stocked, and his own cooking will cater for a celebration of his life later this month.
September 9, 2015
I am writing this after midnight with laughter and tears reading about all the food Malcolm has left for upcoming events. A very special human being that gave his all and we are so proud to have known him. I know Annie will very proud of all Malcolm's accomplishments and sheer hard work. Rest in peace and we will meet again.
September 9, 2015
Thank you, Catherine, for a lovely description of Malcolm Bain's brave, passionate life, spent in giving of himself. Then a death with no lingering. Who could ask for more?
Felicia Di Stefano