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South Bermondsey community kitchen

Training young people in catering skills

December 2015

By Ann Clayton, community engagement manager, Big Local South Bermondsey

A community kitchen: the germ of an idea started as far back as September 2013 over a chance cup of coffee.  I called in to Dun’s Deli and got chatting to the owner Mike Donovan. The talk started really about local kids hanging around in our market square and how it was so different in our day when job were plentiful. 

Mike said he had a dream of opening a catering school to train young people in the art of cookery. He had a large space above the deli which he felt would be suitable. My ears pricked up because I had just been reading through some statistics which showed that catering in our area was a growth industry. That was when the seed was firmly planted and ready to germinate. As the Community Engagement Manager for Big Local South Bermondsey I knew the idea would be of interest to the group. In fact our group had already discussed such possibilities. 

I explained to Mike, a businessman and entrepreneur, that for a social interest company funding was available. I advised him to approach United St Saviour’s, a north Southwark charity and our locally trusted organisation, who I felt would like this innovative idea, and advised a capital expression of interest.

Mike was successful in securing 50K which kitted out the kitchen. Then the really hard work started. We secured funding to take on an administrator and a tutor and then we looked around for additional grants and ultimately raised over 300K. We hit several problems on the way such as the electric supply being inadequate. The road outside had to be dug up and cable brought into the shop, we had to have an extractor custom made, we couldn’t get our new fridges up the stairs because of their weight and they had to be changed.

But local people started to rally round to help. A retired but experienced counsellor said she would help support the trainees free of charge; a supplier of food to very upmarket restaurants said we could have their unused stocks; a Big Local volunteer offered to help those with Aspergers with their writing skills – we were on our way. All we needed then was to secure some trainees and arrange our launch.

We advertised in the local papers, put up signs in local noticeboards, promoted through the council newsletter, put posters up on our sites, went to the job centre and education facilities and contacted charities who worked with young people. Our work soon paid off with 25 young people coming forward. We are now looking forward to a third intake.

We also secured Raymond Blanc the famous chef to launch our venture and made sure that we got loads of publicity from that. We have to thank our existing business connection with Belmond UK for making this happen. We invited to the launch those who had funded us and groups that could supply us with trainees, such as the Prince's Trust. It was a great success and kindly Raymond Blanc has continued to support us by supplying us with kitchen equipment (pictured below) and offering to cook a ticket meal with our students to raise funds. 

We also had a second launch event for the local community, tenant and residents associations and councillors. Overall, Big Local's contribution financially was £22,500 and we gave of our time in our work promoting the school and finding networks, raising funds and helping get ready for the opening. We now also have 2 people on the board of trustees for the school.

We are not through the woods yet. Our students are often those who have had issues with traditional education, many have personal issues to overcome too. Some may not be able to pass the City and Guilds qualification, but they will have been trained in the service industry and in food preparation and unlike other schools there is not a time limit set, each student works at their own pace with support.

We are working with our local BID (Business Improvement District) which the local traders have secured for our area. They are keen to support the trainees on completion of their courses, either with placements or employment. We have purchased stalls for students to run a small business venture and we intend to continue to support them when they move on from the school. We have a van and are considering delivery of food to local older people's homes. Opportunities are endless, so watch this space! And remember- never give up if you believe in something.

About the community kitchen

Find out more about the community kitchen on the South Bermondsey community kitchen website.

About South Bermondsey's partnership with Belmond

South Bermondsey Big Local's relationship with Belmond began with Belmond staff volunteering on Big Local green projects and then offering skills training. Residents attended presentation skills training at Belmond’s offices and one partnership member was advised on financial understanding. Belmond are also sharing their marketing expertise by working with the partnership on a leaflet for South Bermondsey Big Local.

One of the most unexpected outcomes of the relationship was when eight people from the Big Local partnership were invited to visit one of Belmond’s best known hotels, Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, the hotel and restaurant run by chef Raymond Blanc. The visit had a major positive impact. Raymond Blanc came out to greet the residents on arrival, the Head Gardener took them on a tour of the hotel's vegetable gardens and they were treated to tea and cake in the hotel. This was a great boost to the team who took away with them a number of ideas which they will be using next year. 

The partnership with Belmond is just one way of many that South Bermondsey Big Local are using their £1million to bring in additional funding and in-kind support. Find out more:


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