Every 2 years, the Association of Catering Excellence (ACE) chooses a food related charity to support. For 2014-16 that charity was Beyond Food Foundation, set up by Chef Simon Boyle at Brigade Bar & Bistro, housed in a former fire station near London Bridge.
Brigade was born out of Simon’s realisation that there are not enough inspirational projects aimed at supporting homeless people to end the cycle of ‘no job no home – no home no job’. Beyond Food runs two programmes which have been designed, implemented and perfected by Simon; ‘Freshlife’ – a 6 week series of food based motivational workshops and ‘United Kitchen’ – a fully certified apprenticeship programme which leads directly to employment.
The story of 22 year old apprentice, Gavin Fontaine.
Just 6 months ago, former plumber Gavin was homeless, but thanks to Simon’s initiative, he is currently undergoing a 13 month programme at Beyond Food Foundation. Simon and Gavin recently attended the Association of Excellence’s Wine Dinner to share their story and collect a cheque for £2,500 from Jeni Edwards, Chair of ACE. A further £2,500 will be donated later in the year.
Simon Boyle said: “We’re very proud ACE chose us as their charity. 3 and a half years ago, I opened Brigade Restaurant in the oldest fire station in London, and since then we have seen over 593 homeless people come through the doors on our Freshlife programme.
The apprentices that go on to work with us spend 6 months in Brigade’s kitchen, learning how to make soup, stock, sauces and ice-cream. They then do a 7 month work placement which should result in full-time employment. We give them good solid skills so they can get out of the cycle of no home, no job, no home. Without the support of people like ACE, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do. ACE’s donation will sponsor a homeless person and train them in foodservice, providing them with a new and positive future.”
Celebrating the mid-way point
Gavin is part of the 7th cohort of trainee chefs that are approaching the mid-way point of their apprenticeship, having been working with Beyond Food Foundation since June 2013. The occasion was marked at the Beyond Food Foundation Thacker Craft Award, held at the Pavilion Suite of PricewaterhouseCoopers’ offices on Friday 13th March.
The event involved testing the apprentices on a variety of kitchen skills before moving onto a placement with one of our partner restaurants. Their challenge was to design and prepare a mix of canapés to be prepared in Brigade but then moved and served in an outside location.
You can meet cohort 7 here.
“Having now spent 6 months in regular employment at Brigade, the majority of them are very nervous about moving to their new workplaces. However, we are confident that they will do well and look forward to following their progress.” Greg Harris, Chief Executive Officer, Beyond Food Foundation
Between them, they have apprenticeships with an impressive selection of hospitality businesses including De Vere, Sodexo and The Savoy.
Gavin is about to embark on his 7 month placement with Corbin & King, based at Fischer’s Restaurant in Marylebone High Street. He’ll be working as a Commis Chef, under Head Chef Ray Mason. During his apprenticeship, he will be assessed once a month by Beyond Food Foundation, and there is plenty of scope for him to work his way up the culinary ladder. The aim will be to secure a permanent position within the Corbin & King portfolio. Gavin is the second apprentice to join the group, with his predecessor now working at The Wolseley on Piccadilly.