Thomas Rode x Plain Units

Thomas Rode x Plain Units

On taking the plunge—and being vulnerable

You might be a seasoned professional. Settled into your career, you're accomplished and experienced, so you feel confident and competent—wise, even.

So, being in that state, how would it feel to drop it all suddenly? To be a beginner? To take the plunge and be vulnerable for the first time in a long time? And what would you gain from letting go of everything?

Let's go explore—and see where we end up.

To join us on our introspective journey, we've partnered with Thomas Rode, our ambassador, for the coming months. We tell his story to inspire people to embrace themselves as they are and take brave steps. It's a purpose close to our hearts and what drives us—before ever conceiving anything trousers.

It's also how Thomas lives his life.

At 46, Thomas let go of his solid career at the top of Danish gastronomy. Suddenly, he took the plunge as a gym teacher and entrepreneur.

He was driven by a newfound passion and a desire to try something else—but for the first time in a long time, he also felt new, inexperienced and vulnerable.

Thomas vibrates with energy and is an inspiring character. So we wanted to get to know him better and discover how his story could inspire you and me to be who we are—truthfully and without hesitation.

Read the interview below

Thomas Rode on Plain Units

"I'm proud that Plain Units wants to hook up with an older gentleman like me. Apparently, I can still inspire and motivate, which makes me happy.

Like me, Plain Units plunges wholeheartedly into things and sees them from a slightly deeper perspective. Considering the state of things in the world and constructively thinking about durability, recycling, and repair, they only use the resources they need. Why sew an extra spare button in the trousers when they're rarely used? It's a small but essential, sympathetic and well-seen detail—a call to being conscious. I sincerely appreciate that."

Thomas...

When was the last time you discovered something about yourself that you embraced and stood by?

It's a tough question. It's to do with being vulnerable, I think.

I want to be able to be vulnerable—but I'm not sure I can. I've been vulnerable so rarely in my life.

Recently, I thought to myself, 'am I really able to be vulnerable? Am I open? Would I cry and let go if...?'

I would, I think. 

But I'm also a dinosaur.

I've been successful as a director and chef in the restaurant business for many years, partly because I know how to utilise people's skills. As a leader, I've always managed people to reach a goal.

To that end, I've also found it easy to separate the personal from the professional. I once dismissed a chef, leaving people confused; 'he's such a nice guy?!' Yes, he was, but he was also unfit for the job. I realised he wouldn't work well within our small organisation, and I didn't want him to torture himself trying to fit in. I told him he could become the best version of himself elsewhere.

There's often little time to feel our way forward in the restaurant business. It's either A or B.

But—there's something between those two. The in-between. That's vulnerability to me.

My wife's been fantastic at making me see things differently. I vividly remember her asking, 'do you think your employees know that not getting scolded is the same as being praised?' 'Yes, everyone knows, I told her—and I thought to myself. 

But I later realised that most people don't.

You recently participated in a TV show and a social experiment where eight participants and three videographers must survive on an island for 14 days. How did vulnerability play out for you there?

It was somewhat unusual for me. As participants, we weren't assigned roles or responsibilities in advance. So, I had to be open and not go into my usual mode of wanting to control things. The experiment was about something other than predefined roles and habits, and I had to adhere to that premise.

So, I exposed myself and was in a slightly vulnerable position. And that can be hard—especially when you're an old dinosaur like me, who've been taking charge and running the show my whole career.

What has the ability to be vulnerable given you?

In all my years as a director and chef, I've loved my job. But some years ago, I suddenly didn't feel the same passion anymore.

Some time passed, and I met a person who asked if I'd start something completely new and use my skills in an entirely new way. 

To make a long story short, I'm now a gym teacher. Not only that, I'm a gym teacher who cooks for his students.

I've started a project I call 'Old men in new bodies' at a Danish spa resort, Kurhotel Skodsborg. I'm accompanied by middle-aged men who've spent a lot of time on their families and careers and who've forgotten themselves ever more so slightly over the years. I cook and use my nutrition knowledge, newfound passion and talent for training to spark change. 

These men often discover that physical training and caring for themselves to become their best versions feel incredible.

So, how did taking the plunge into the depths and away from your previous life and identity feel?

It felt like admitting something to myself. Something that had suddenly become true after spending 30 years making my way into the exclusive club of the top ten best restaurants in Denmark. 

The truth was that I wasn't that guy anymore. I was out—and I felt the motivation to get all out. I felt vulnerable. But I was doing the right thing. Just fucking do it, I told myself. Contemplate what you feel like doing—and do it.

How do you think you inspire other people?

By doing things, I love doing.

Throughout my life, I've mostly loved what I do. So things usually come naturally to me, and so does working hard to become great, which makes me grow.

To me, growing as a person is an incredible feeling. But as I've become wiser, I've learned that growing also hurts—and that to grow, I need to be open and vulnerable first.

Thomas Rode on trousers

"I've worn denim for most of my 54-year-old life. I decided to take a break a few years ago, so I'm very drawn to non-denim trousers. The ones I've tried from Plain Units match my proportions well, and I feel incredibly comfortable in them. I like that they're classic but cheeky and have odd but discreet details."