Welcome back to our Step it Up Campaign, where our aim is to inspire others to become more active in charity work by sharing stories of social responsibility. Today we hear from the charity side of our campaign.
Having started as an apprentice aged 16 at The Savoy, Simon has lead a highly respectable career ever since, working for Anton Mosimann, Saudi Princes, taking Head Chef roles on 5 star Cruise Ships and becoming the first ever Culinary Ambassador for global giant Unilever as well as running his own Private Catering and Events business. Since 2004, Simon has worked tirelessly to help homeless people across London to rebuild their lives, using food as a catalyst, imparting his passion, skills and knowledge of cooking and food onto them and encouraging them to move their lives forward.
Brigade Restaurant is a social enterprise and Beyond Food a charity, working with the homeless. We give homeless people the training needed to sustain full employment through a six week programme. It’s an empowering journey that can help them move on and do something with their lives. Those who show some aptitude can go on to train as apprentices.
How important are volunteers for you?
“Extremely important. We just couldn’t run this without them.”
What sort of work are volunteers doing?
“We have a small team that cover fundraising, supporting the apprentices, social media, events and applying for funding. We tend to have around 10 volunteers at any point in time, but also have occasional help from volunteers who advise on legal contracts, funding etc.”
Do you offer training or would you prefer people come in with that skill-set?
“We need people with definite skill-sets who will be doing work they have done in the past. We just don’t have the ability to train people, and, to be honest, it’s their skills and knowledge that we need to tap into to make this work.”
What sort of people are you looking for?
“People who are obviously behind our ideals and want to be part of social change, but also people with an entrepreneurial streak, who understand what it is we are trying to do. We’re not looking for people to paint our walls.”
What do the volunteers get out of it?
“They obviously have satisfaction in giving back, but they also come away with a feeling that they’ve achieved something great. I have spoken to many individuals in the corporates we work with who have told me that their work with Brigade and Beyond Food is one of the main reasons they stay in their job!
There was one man who worked for a large, slow moving corporate and was surprised at how fast paced life at the charity can be. He took back a whole new approach to his business and is now a partner.”
Do you have any advice for people thinking of volunteering on how to choose a charity or what to do?
“Think about what you want to get out of it as much as what you want to put in. There’s no need to rush in all guns blazing. Think about initially just having a coffee or face to face meeting to see if there are gaps that you can fill. Finally, don’t underestimate the value you can give.”
Please check back often for more Step it Up interviews,
and get in touch if you would like to share your own story!