Ethical Performance
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Cooking up employment opportunities for the homeless

November 2014

A London restaurant that serves up fine dining to the likes of David Cameron, Boris Johnson and Prince Andrew is also cooking up a storm in the homeless community with its award winning chef-training programme.

Beyond Food Foundation and partners, the Brigade Bar & Bistro, has recently won the Community Partners Award at this year’s Lord Mayor’s Dragon Awards, for their work with people who have been at risk of or experienced homelessness. The chef-training programme motivates those on the scheme to not only gain fully certified apprenticeships and real work experience within the restaurant’s kitchens, but to gain a chance of employment within the hospitality sector.

Since it opened in 2011 Brigade Bar & Bistro has employed 61 kitchen apprentices, who have progressed into industry work placements to complete the NVQ Level 2 in Professional Cookery before forging careers as chefs at top eateries such as the Savoy, Swan at the Globe, Plateau and five star hotels across London.

Owned by PwC and managed by De Vere Venues, the restaurant’s cook school facility has provided a training space for 240 people, aimed at promoting core employability skills such as team work, communication, professionalism and the fundamentals of nutrition, health and wellbeing. Over 130 trainees at the cook school progressed to work placements within the Brigade’s training kitchen and over 100 of these trainees have received accredited learning awards for the hospitality sector.

Simon Boyle, chef and founder of the Beyond Food Foundation (BFF), told Ethical Performance that receiving the Dragon award was an acknowledgement from the City that “we are doing the right thing”.

“It’s good for our profile – after all the restaurant is a business and we need to make money,” he said. “But going forward it also opens the way to new partnerships.”

Boyle pointed out that BFF also runs a Fresh Life programme which is about helping homeless people get a new start at life. This includes two weeks’ work experience in a restaurant. “It’s not just about food and cooking, but about commercial skills too,” he explained.

BFF works in combination with the Princes Trust’s Get Started programme, in order to find people to participate in the scheme. “The aim is to promote sustainable, meaningful employment,” he emphasized.

Boyle said that the Foundation was currently looking at creating a blueprint of “what we do and how we do it” but said he would not want to replicate Brigade. “We’ve a very special relationship with PwC and DeVere. What we’re doing now is looking at launching a new business which is aimed at providing good food in hostels. You would be flabbergasted by the current standard of food on offer,” he said. And the good news is that the Foundation has just received seed funding for this new strand to the business from the Andrews Charitable Trust.

Established 27 years ago, the Lord Mayor’s Dragon Awards are the longest running awards that recognise excellence in corporate community engagement programmes. From small and medium enterprises (SMEs) including restaurants and furniture businesses, to international financial and legal firms– companies across London are demonstrating their commitment to CSR that has a positive and lasting impact on individual lives.

Overall, this year’s Dragon Award applicants supported more than 200,000 individuals across London, with 166,242 hours ploughed into projects – equating to £1.2m worth of investment.

Lord Mayor Fiona Woolf said: “Since the launch of the Lord Mayor’s Dragon Awards nearly three decades ago, there has been a marked change in business approach to CSR. It is no longer a ‘nice to have’, it is a ‘must have’. We all recognize that human investment is a vital precursor to good commercial investment. So we celebrate the growing ambition of business to create long term value for their workforce, and for wider society. This is an exceptional example of how a scheme has successfully engaged with unemployed people to give them skills that will empower them to change their future.”

UK & NI Ireland | Awards

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