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! We’re delighted to say that Simon Boyle founder of the social enterprise restaurant Brigade is our Guest Blogger this month.
BRIGADE 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 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 our apprentices attain an NVQ level 2 diploma in professional cooking and we help them 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
RECENTLY I’VE BEEN SHARING SOME OF THE IDEAS FROM OUR FRESHLIFE PROGRAMME TO OTHER ORGANISATIONS WORKING WITH VULNERABLE PEOPLE, SO WE CAN HELP MORE PEOPLE TURN THEIR LIVES AROUND.
EXTENDING THE REACH OF FRESHLIFE
The last week or so has been all about reaching out to other organisations to share some of the tools I have developed for Beyond Food’s Freshlife course. We live in a world where homelessness is growing, Brexit is looming and opportunities aren’t there for everybody. It’s an unfair society. Some say there are loads of jobs out there, but many vulnerable people actually need a lot support before they’re in a position to get a job, and this is what Freshlife specialises in.
Freshlife helps people think of themselves as the priority and enables them to start looking after themselves properly. This starts with their diet. Eating good, nutritious food gives people the energy and motivation they need to think about what they want to get out of their lives, and what they need to do to get there. I’ve been doing this for so long, I’ve developed and polished 10 ideas that people need to embrace in order to do this. People in vulnerable situations have lots of complex needs, and I know that if they don’t adopt these ideas and tools, it will be really difficult for them to move themselves on in life.
For example, one of these ideas is the need for separation. This is about identifying the thing, person, place or addiction that is blocking an individual from moving themselves forward. Actively saying: ‘That’s the thing that’s blocking me and I’m going to consciously remove it from my life’ – can be truly helpful. It doesn’t have to be forever, but removing a blocker temporarily helps people move on. We work with one young girl and her sister was a very negative influence in her life. On day one of the Freshlife course, she identified this was a problem and the very same day, she told her sister she needed her out of her life for a period of time so she could sort herself out. Even though she re-established a relationship with her sister again after six months, the separation was what she needed to move on physically, mentally and emotionally. It’s a difficult thing, but I’ve seen time and time again what a difference it makes.
So I’ve essentially been applying thinking like this in taster Freshlife sessions with a number of organisations to help their beneficiaries. This includes at the Hotel School – run as a collaboration between The Goring Hotel and The Passage hostel, and at Refettorio Felix. In the short-term, I hope sharing my experience and knowledge helps some of London’s most vulnerable people. Beyond Food is also starting the next Freshlife course in January, so we’re also keen to meet people who might benefit from taking these ideas to the next level and enrolling in the course.
- Sharing some new ideas with a group at Refettorio Felix
In the area I work in, there are always so many opportunities for partnerships and collaborations, and it never ceases to amaze me how many people and organisations are out there doing such fantastic work.
As well as the mini-Freshlife sessions this week, I also had great meetings with Centrepoint and Switchback, I talked to some students from Minerva University and I hosted a supper club for social innovators at The Conduit.
Centrepoint is a youth homelessness charity that also provides a hostel provision in London. Many of the young people they work with are very vulnerable and have had to leave home, being left with no family support. We’re hoping to run cooking sessions with some young people they work with and also share my new book with them. We’re hoping to do some similar work with Switchback, a charity that works with people who are just about to be released from prison. There’s a lot of synergy with our work – offering support, training and getting people mentally ready for the world of work.
Minerva University is really interesting because it’s essentially for entrepreneurs in-the-making. People who enrol on the undergraduate programme travel the world together for four years, gaining experiences in different locations. The latest group is in London from September to December so I went to speak to them about social business, corporate social responsibility and Beyond Food’s courses.
I also ran a supper club at The Conduit, cooking for 22 members of the new club for people who are socially minded and working on social impact. We shared information about some of the work we do and myself and the Beyond Food apprentices cooked for them. Everyone really enjoyed it.
Last week we also hosted Nigel Haworth’s Beyond Food supper club at Brigade – on the final night before Brigade closed for refurbishment. It was a brilliant evening – Nigel is well-known for his simple and brilliantly executed dishes that bring in the flavours of Lancashire where he comes from. He taught our team loads in the process and we raised lots of money to promote our work, so it was a really fitting last night for Brigade as we formerly knew it.
Then in the early hours of the morning, we cleared Brigade out and the next day, the rest of it was totally ripped out by the contractors! Everything from the front door to the back door is changing – it’s an incredibly exciting time.
While the refurbishment is happening, the team are doing all sorts of things across London. This includes work experience placements, looking at suppliers, fundraising and we’ll be starting training on the new menu soon.
From reaching out to new people and organisations to embracing the future and whatever it brings, it’s difficult not to be excited about what the next few months will hold.
- Nigel Haworth and Brigade head chef Pete
- The team at Brigade saying goodbye…for now
To celebrate Nigel Haworth’s supper club and the start of a new era at Brigade, the new recipe on my website this week is for Nigel’s Apple Crumble Soufflé and Lancashire Cheese Ice Cream.