TV chef in Hamilton shares story of losing child, suicide attempt - and bouncing back

Story captivates audience, encourages hope.

Chef Mindy Livengood Shea told a crowd of 500 on Friday night about losing her child, hating the job path she thought the world expected her to take, getting healthy and overcoming the trauma she faced in her journey.

Livengood Shea told her deeply personal story to encourage those who attended the Greater Hamilton Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting at Spooky Nook Sports at Champion Mill to find strength in the people who truly love them and to fight for themselves.

The Liberty Twp. chef is an advocate for farm-to-table cooking, and after trying to be a nurse, went the business route, but never gave up her dream of cooking. She opened a small catering company in West Chester Twp. and worked as a brunch chef at a café in Liberty Twp.

While the Season 21 “Hell’s Kitchen” contestant shared a little bit about her time on the Fox reality cooking show ― Chef Gordon Ramsey is really a nice guy, and his hair is always on point ― Livengood Shea told the crowd about her story, saying from the start, “It’s a good one, y’all.”

Livengood Shea battled demons for most of her adult life, from a cheating husband, being bullied by her ex’s paramour, the death of her 9-month-old daughter in 2013, years of battling her weight, and being pushed out by a toxic friend group. At the lowest point of her life in 2016, she attempted suicide.

That suicide scar is covered by two of her seven tattoos as she is a survivor, and her eldest daughter, Payton, is a big reason for her being alive today.

“I had every reason to give up, I had and still have this massive hole in my chest that will never close from the loss of my child (Allison), but what I can tell you what I’ve learned over the last 43 years of my life is that it’s possible to go on,” she said.

Credit: Jessica Williford/JessicaTWphotography LLC

Credit: Jessica Williford/JessicaTWphotography LLC

Livengood Shea went on. She went back to school and Business Administration master’s degree, she lost 165 pounds, she was hired as a corporate executive chef. And Gordon Ramsey said he liked her soup.

“Being bullied is what caused me to be sad, broken, and close to suicide,” she said, and for a long time, not many knew her story. They didn’t know the meaning behind her tattoos, such as the anchor and wave that covers the suicide scar on her wrist.

“The old saying goes, you never really know what someone’s going through rings true,” she said. “Does your business say cover your tattoos, take out your piercings and don’t color your hair wild. I’m going to ask you to really dive deep into that because what you don’t know is I’m currently doing two people’s job at my corporate chef’s job. I work 60 hours a week salaried and I have nine tattoos, sometimes I have pink hair, and I have seven piercings.”

“But if I have this chef’s (knife) tattoo on my forearm,” she said, holding up her right arm, “and you say I can’t work for you, you could be losing the best employee you ever have based on a strict judgment just because of what you see on my arm. Don’t mistake tattoos and piercings for unprofessionalism. Think about the situation that drove the person to having those. You could be passing up the greatest employee of your career.”

Livengood Shea said despite all the negative that’s happened to her, she got back up. For her family, for herself.

“Success happens when you say, ‘No matter how many times I’ve failed, I got back up,’” she said. “I’m always looking for new opportunities, as should you. New employees, new successful people to work around. So get up. Try again. Accept people for who they are. Open up your mind and be brave. End up incredible.”

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