Some members of The Leaders Club together with the Board arrived at the The Brigade, Tooley Street, London on the 11th of Dec, to celebrate Christmas over a delicious meal and also meet and get to know a little bit more about Chef Simon Boyle. Simon is the owner of The Brigade and founder of the Beyond Food Foundation. Simon gave us a heartfelt, compassionate account of the idea and birth for the foundation.
Having started as an apprentice chef aged 16 at The Savoy, Simon has lead a highly respectable career since, working for Saudi Princes, taking Head Chef roles on 5* Cruise Ships, becoming the first ever Culinary Ambassador for the global giant Unilever and running his own Private Catering and Events business.
Simon told us that The Brigade not only serves up outstanding food (which we experienced later in the evening and it is true!) in a unique setting, the old Fire Brigade in Tooley Street, it also creates new skills, new experiences and offers life changing opportunities for people less fortunate than ourselves by providing the venue for the training school for his apprenticeship programme – Beyond Food Foundation. He went on to explain that the Beyond Food Foundation was an idea he had when he returned from Sri Lanka in 2004, where he had been working to support a relief camp after the Tsunami. He wanted to share his passion for food with people who he thought would benefit from his energy and enthusiasm for cooking, thus the birth of the Foundation. 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 on to them and encouraging them to move their lives forward.
Simon explained that Beyond Food works with people who have been at risk of or experienced homelessness to motivate and inspire them to gain meaningful employment via his apprenticeship programme. This life changing opportunity provides qualifications and personal mentoring helping apprentices find sustained employment.
The setting up of the foundation was not easy, and along the way had many knock backs, including the DWP not wanting to get involved in the venture initially and the entrepreneurs on Dragons Den who all declined to invest any money into his idea. Having said that, Simon goes to great pains to explain that whilst the dragons all declined to invest, they were all very generous off camera with their business advice, a lot of which Simon took on board. It took Simon another 6 years of relentless hard work before he managed to make head way with the foundation forging partnerships with companies like PWC, and the Homes and Committees Agency along the way. Simon worked hard and still does to ensure that the Beyond Food Foundation is one part of a three-way partnership between the private, public and third sector to help employability, and social and community inclusion in London.
To date the foundation has helped many homeless and under privileged people find employment and also housing through the foundation.
To say that Simon is a little shy when talking about himself and his achievements is an understatement. Simon himself is a total inspiration. His passion for the Foundation is palpable and despite having endured his own personal adversity (read his book) in the recent past he is still working tirelessly to help and encourage people to join the scheme and make a success of their lives. One cannot fail to be impressed with Simon and what he has achieved. He is giving people a priceless asset, a unique sense of worth in their lives, how many of us can say that?
To find out more about Simon and his work with the Foundation click the below link.
Jayne Stokes, Director, The Leaders Club