Simon Boyle Founder & CEO, Beyond Food & Brigade

A BIT ABOUT THE BEYOND FOOD COMMUNITY INTEREST COMPANY

The BRIGADE RESTAURANT in Tooley Street London is part of Beyond Food Community Interest Company (CIC), a unique collaboration between PwC, Beyond Food and WSH Restaurants. Beyond Food CIC inspires Southwark residents who are at risk of or have experienced homelessness to gain meaningful employment in a sustainable way. Simon Boyle and his team run a series of training programmes which culminate in six-month apprenticeships in the Brigade kitchen followed by seven months in another professional kitchen in London. At the end of 13 months, apprentices attain an NVQ level 2 diploma in professional cooking and are then helped to find long term employment in hospitality. Since opening in 2011, Beyond Food has helped countless vulnerable people, some of whom were sleeping rough when they joined the programme. Most were living in hostels and a large number were ex-offenders or had issues with substance abuse. For more information go to: www.thebrigade.co.uk/beyond.php

Simon, an award winning Chef, author, social entrepreneur, Fellow of the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts, pitcher on BBC’s Dragons Den and above all a thoroughly nice bloke! If you want the full run down on Simon Boyle, go to WIKIPEDIA ! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon_Boyle_(chef) We caught up with the inspirational force for good just before he rushed off to see the refurbishment work going on at his social enterprise restaurant Brigade, in Tooley Street, London.

Why did you choose to get into the restaurant industry?

At 11 I was really inspired by food. By the time I was 13 I realised that school wasn’t for me – I was much more interested in running home, peeling potatoes and making shepherd’s pie rather than doing my homework! Between the ages of 13-15 I started cooking quite seriously and was inspired by chefs. My father wanted me to go in to hotel management, but my exam results weren’t great, so at 16 I decided to be a chef and joined The Savoy when I was 17.

Who has inspired you most in your career?

Good question! Probably Raymond Blanc. He is completely self-taught and remains as passionate as he ever was, not just in food but cultivating people and produce. He cooks everything he grows, lives with his heart on his sleeve and is totally and emotionally involved in what he does – just as I am!

If you could work anywhere in the world where would it be?

Italy! There’s a chef called Massimo Bottura who runs a three-Michelin-star restaurant in Modena. He’s one of the World’s top chefs and has been in the top 5 at The World’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards since 2010. The way that he comes up with recipes is because of the story behind the recipe.

He’ll take an experience, usually a life experience which will inspire him. When he was a young boy, his older brothers used to “beat him up” and he’d hide under the kitchen table. His Mum used to make Lasagne and he would peer his head above the table and steel little crusty corners from the lasagne. He now has a famous dish called ‘The Crunchy Part of the Lasagne’ which is amazing.

What has been your most embarrassing moment?

I was recently asked by the HBAA to run a charity Auction which was raising money for my charity the Beyond Food Community Interest Company (CIC). I am not a natural auctioneer and so was pleased when I got help half way through! I’m also quite shy and was delighted but slightly embarrassed to win recently the Craft Guild of Chefs, People’s Choice Award, which was decided by an online public forum. I was pleased to accept on-behalf of the team @ Brigade – my social enterprise restaurant and home of the Beyond Food Community Interest Company. Our aim is to motivate and inspire people who have experienced homelessness to gain employment through cooking and food.

What piece of advice would you give to your teenage self?

Always work hard, be open to learning in different ways. Soak up all experience like a sponge and don’t take life to seriously!

What three items would you bring to a desert island?

* A set of chef knives

* Music by Marillion

* Pen and paper

What did you do last weekend?

I cooked with our apprentices a meal for Anne Machin and her family and friends. Anne designed Brigade and she and her supporters are helping raise funds for my new book which aims at distributing 5000 books to vulnerable young people, many of whom have never cooked before. It’s called – How to Cook and Keep on Cooking and is available from mid-November – https://www.penguin.co.uk/books/1117392/how-to-cook-and-keep-on-cooking/9781529103267.html

What is your favourite place to travel to?

Vietnam because of the food and the people, many of whom have gone through such adversity. I’ve met many really hospitable people and they produce amazingly health food!

Is there anything on your bucket list that you haven’t yet done?

I’ve been on Simon Mayo’s BBC Radio 2 show as part of the Foodie Thursday feature and would like to go on to TV such as Saturday Kitchen or Sunday Brunch and just talk about what we do and how we do it. It’s a far cry from my appearance on Dragons Den ten years ago.

What is your favourite APP?

Great British Chefs – full of recipes from the UK and around the World

What is your favourite food? Anything cooked at home and served in the middle of the table which is a big deal for me. Shepherd’s Pie with pork shoulder and mutton.

Do you binge watch and if so, what do you watch?

Chef’s Table on Netflix is the best cookery programme ever – inspirational chefs who have often come from a challenging background of adversity. I also love dark dramas that need a degree of working out what’s happening Broadchurch is a favourite.