From the new chef’s table being installed at Brigade, to Beyond Food’s supper clubs, being able to interact with people in cosier settings is something I really enjoy. It brings new connections too, and I love to see where that leads.
Making the most of intimate food settings
Often the best food experiences are those that take place in cosier settings, and this is something I’ve been involved in a lot recently.
Brigade is being totally refurbished and it’s currently a building site. It’s such an exciting opportunity though, as we’ll be able to double the capacity of the people we train – so we’ll be launching bigger and better new apprenticeships as a result – and we’ll be able to bring in more facilities for the apprentices to use and new types of food to Brigade. This includes amazing BERTHA ovens, which use wood to cook and smoke food. One of the parts I’m most looking forward to in the new Brigade is the chef’s table we’re installing within the kitchen upstairs. This will be a great way for us spend more time up close and personal with our customers.
While the refurbishment is ongoing, we’ve been getting out and cooking in a lot of different places. Recently we went to the home of one of our donors, Anne Machin, in the countryside. She’s an architect who helped me design the original Brigade, and we went down to her house to cook for around 30 people using local produce. We served dishes such as partridge in sherry lentils and it was brilliant to use local foods and get to know a small and wonderful group of people.
The last amazing intimate dining experience we had recently was our James Golding supper club. I spent the day with James at THE PIG Brockenhurst to prepare the day before the supper club, and then the event was hosted at Refettorio Felix the next day. It was a resounding success and we raised lots of money for the new book campaign, which will help vulnerable younger people look after themselves through cooking and other life skills. The final supper club in the current series will be by Chris King on 9 November 2018, the exciting chef who works under Michel Roux at The Langham.
Embarking on new challenges
While Brigade has been closed, we also held a Beyond Food Work Experience Week. As a result, our apprentices have been on work placements at the House of St Barnabas, The Conduit and The Fox West, Hoathly. The week was designed to give them another viewpoint on what their future career paths could entail, and I’m pleased the week was a great success for everyone. Soon the apprentices will be moving out of Brigade and taking up their year-long work placements, just in time for our recruitment drive for the next intake of apprentices.
I also think it’s important to get involved in local community initiatives when possible, and recently I did this at Borough Market for Social Saturday – an event that celebrates social enterprise in the UK. There were people from various social enterprises displaying their goods and sharing their stories in Borough Market. The whole day was about celebrating and communicating the value of using produce from those who have created businesses for social impact. I was asked to do a cooking demonstration to help share the story of Beyond Food. Usually at a cooking demonstration you cook one dish and display it on a nice plate, but I wanted to do something a bit different. So I cooked tamarind sticky chicken wings from my new book and served it with chickpea curry, pilau rice and raita – and cooked enough to serve around 80 people! It was really fun and we got a lot out of it.
Within the last week we were also lucky to receive a $5,000 donation from Tableau, an American company that has a big office nearby in Southwark. They wanted to support a local charity and this donation will help support the work of Beyond Food, particularly around data collection using one of their programmes that can help us get better use out of the data we collect. It’s a new relationship, but I was already invited to attend an employee event at Tableau, where we had a number of volunteers come forward who want to help us with our work. It’ll be an exciting new challenge for them and brilliant for us.
The biggest thing that happened to me this week was that I won the Extra Mile award at the Foodservice Cateys 2018. I had no idea I was going to receive the award – all I knew was that I was attending the dinner reception at the awards ceremony. The event was basically finished when they announced they had created an extra award for me! It was in recognition of my work over the years of using food as a means of social change – I was surprised and humbled to receive it.
This week’s recipe – partridge on sherry lentils – celebrates local produce and simple British flavours.
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