In my experience, and increasingly in that of many other Melburnians and travellers, it is the name of a complex, in the Burnley area, which includes a restaurant, gym and wellness centre and all the creation of a remarkable young woman, Emillie Hazell, 26.
When you walk into the restaurant, Serotonin, you are greeted by any one of the staff and if you are lucky taken to a table. The first time I went I thought the staff were impossibly friendly and nice but over time I realised that it is genuine because the people who work there are proud of what they do and confident of their product, the food and the environment.
The menu, in typical Emillie fashion, is not only by and large vegan it is also local, organic and complex. So no white flours, white sugars or processed foods. The food is tested in-house before ever being served to paying customers and Serotonin has scientific advisers who have an input to the final product.
Stevie Scott, a one of the Serotonin Originals, has always been welcoming and sunny but yesterday she was at university at her course and someone I had never met waited on our table and was warm, friendly and helpful. So no coincidence but a pattern.
Serotonin is also, of course, a complex neurotransmitter found in human and animal bodies and the amount of it in any particular individual is thought to be a marker of that person's feelings of well being on the one hand or depression on the other. It is not the whole story of depression as the Prozac boosters believed when they first went to that drug first went to market. A lot of people were prescribed Prozac and other Serotonin re-uptake inhibiting medications. Books were written about the new magic in combatting depression.
Emillie in her own words had “mood funks” when she was fourteen. Not unusual for a teenage girl. When she was twenty and now diagnosed by her GP as depressed she was told that the treatment she would now start on was medication followed by psychotherapy. Emillie said “no thanks”. She had been doing her own research and decided that she could defeat the problem with a plant based organic whole food diet, exercise and meditation.
By the time she was 24 she had a business plan and a way forward but she was no longer depressed or in need of chemical help. In the short time since the businesses have grown to such an extent that the gym behind the restaurant has been moved to Camberwell and that space converted to a function centre for larger table bookings and events. The restaurant will soon be open for evening meals as well. It already does Uber Eats which will deliver you a great meal - I availed myself of one the other night.
aHer partner of seven years, Daniel Dundas, glows with pride as he talks about Emilies achievements. “You have been there from the beginning of this journey”, I comment. “yes, but all the planning and design came from her”, he says. Not many men will admit thus much in their need to be top dog.
Have a look around the Serotonin site and click on the various options. It will be rewarding but definitely go there and have a great meal.
Disclaimer – I have no shares or financial interest in this business.
I have had an interest in depression and other forms of mental problems for quite a while. My father had clinical manic-depression and the family saw him go through the stages of mood changes, major depressive episodes, hospitalisation and finally dementia.
His case was complicated by his personal history – he was in six slave labour camps during the second world war and he never really got over the murder of his mother, grandmother and younger brother. How could you?
Over the years I had proposed an observational documentary series for tv that would go in depth with three or four individuals coping (or not) with different problems. I had wonderful input from my school days friend, George Szmukler, who was then the Head of Psychiatry at Kings College, London and David Copolov, the founder of the Mental Health Research Institute in Melbourne.
They in turn put me in touch with other professionals and then with clients. It was an intense period but the tv networks were doing their own things with the ABC and Andrew Denton and the BBC with Stephen Fry. In the end I never got to make this series but I was glad that the issues were raised and I certainly got a lot from doing the research and probably got a better understanding of my dad's issues.
Finally back to Serotonin the cafe, I was there again this morning with my grandson who loved the pancakes.
Emillie has created something wonderful for a growing community,
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