Events for Hospitality Action don’t need to be huge…it’s about spreading the word, by Stuart Mathieson

L-R, Mick Smith, Ben Prior, Jude Kereama and Stuart Mathieson

Cornwall may have once been considered a culinary backwater but today that’s far from the truth. Luminaries such as Nathan Outlaw, Paul Ainsworth and Chris Eden lead the Michelin brigade, while stars of the small screen such as Jude Kereama, Tom Brown and Rick Stein along with well recognised names such as Ben Tunnicliffe, Guy Owen, Ben Prior and Andy Appleton, amongst many others, have transformed the region. Not to mention Front of House specialists such as Acorn winner Rachel Henley and Lyndsey Marshall and of course, the county boasts Fifteen Cornwall, the inspiration of Jamie Oliver.

What is so laudable is that in the social media age, chefs such as these are no longer competitors jealously guarding their recipes and techniques, they actively share their skills and vision with each other in the knowledge that sharing resources and supporting each other is good for everyone and makes Cornwall the culinary destination that it is.

There are very few industry professionals, management, kitchen and FoH who don’t know about Hospitality Action (HA) in the Duchy and we are so fortunate in that putting together an event for the charity is not so much of a case of cajoling someone to run an event, but more a case of dealing with the waiting list!

L-R, Mick Smith, Ben Prior & Jude Kereama

Our recent “end of season BBQ” was an example of this. Mick Smith, Executive Chef of the Portminster Beach Café, approached me early last year, having listened to Penny Moore, the previous CEO of HA, talking on Radio 4 about the charity and the support it gives hospitality staff who have fallen on hard times. He was inspired to do something to raise funds, but needed a couple of other chefs for support. Two phone calls yielded an immediate and positive response from serial HA supporter Jude Kereama from Kota Restaurant at Porthleven and a new recruit who had already flagged up his readiness to do something, Ben Prior from Ben’s Cornish kitchen in Marazion, and the BBQ concept was born.

Food, drink and staffing were next on the agenda and, again, it was a question of a few calls to avid HA supporters who always react favourably to requests by the charity. Sharps Brewery and Total Produce Cornwall came on board without discussion, as did Udale, Celtic Fish & Game and Matthew Stevens, the seafood and fish specialist. Newcomers, to supporting HA in Cornwall, Enotria and LWC, rounded off the list of sponsors. As for staffing, talk to your nearest Catering College. Students need work experience as part of their curriculum and the opportunity to work with superstars of the catering industry and satisfy a section of their studies is heaven sent for both students and their lecturers. Thank you Truro and Penwith College who stepped forward to help.

Promotion is down to you but the Hospitality Action office provides a service, second to none in terms of advice, copy and promotion. Give them the details and they are astonishingly supportive and hugely efficient.

Hospitality Action provides a vital service to our industry and it is up to us to lend our support. The more we can do to raise awareness of the charity the better. Helping HA is also a great way to motivate staff and engage customers. If you’d like to host your own event, wherever you are in the UK, don’t hesitate to give the HA fundraising team a call: 020 3004 5504 and see where your idea may take you!

Mental Health in Hospitality – #timetotalk by Sat Bains

Sat Bains takes a break from social media to promote wellbeing on World Mental Health Day. He picks up the story…

“On 10 October, every year, the World Health Organisation recognises World Mental Health Day. First launched by the World Federation for Mental Health in 1992, it has run almost annually since 1996 on the same day, each year dedicated to a different theme.

While previous years have focused on “mental health and older adults”, “living with schizophrenia” and “mental health in the workplace”, this year it turns its attention to “young people and mental health in a changing world”.

In the 30 or so years that I have been a chef, the world has changed beyond belief. Industry icons are only a Twitter handle away, and in culinary terms, at least, the world has most definitely shrunk. And yet, despite a seemingly smaller world and the fact that World Mental Health Day was launched almost three decades ago, mental health still faces a relentless taboo, particularly in hospitality.

The hospitality industry has given me an incredible career – I’ve achieved things I never thought possible – but there is no getting away from the fact that it has also been a demanding career and a physical one at that.

Chefs are, for the most part, fragile souls and we live wholly in the knowledge that we are only as good as our last meal. My wife Amanda and I put ourselves under immense pressure to perform at the highest possible level, and we expect no less from our teams. We run disciplined, systemised environments with high standards, and we start our day assuming that we are all on the same page – one team, one dream.

The rise of social media has brought amazing opportunities for chefs like me, it’s enabled many of us to promote our businesses, sell tables, crowdfund and get our voice heard without being beholden to one particular newspaper or another.

It has undoubtedly helped many of us build confidence and a support network among chefs and customers alike, and a steady stream of compliments can boost your ego no end. But there’s also a dark side of social media that many people, and many chefs, struggle to handle which is why I felt that launching a blackout was so important on this critical day. And so today, along with many of my colleagues and industry friends, I am quitting my personal social media channels for one week to shine a spotlight on mental health and to promote wellbeing.

Like me, many of my colleagues have addictive personalities which plays right into the hands of social media. We live in an era where many of us are slaves to our phones and we have become addicted to notifications – notifications that open us up not only to adulation, but to trolls and critics too. This dependency is not good and for me and many others I believe taking a break from social media and all it encompasses to have time to reflect on my own wellbeing and the chefs for whom I am responsible for can only be a positive thing.

As a business, wellbeing is key for us. A shorter working week, good, balanced and nutritious staff meals and our healthcare package goes some way towards ensuring this, but we also encourage fitness too – we think it’s fundamental to a positive mental attitude.

Beyond our four walls, we are fortunate to have Hospitality Action to support people in our industry through the hardest of times. Together with HA, we can break the stigmas that stop so many people asking for help and create an environment where people feel they have both the support of their line manager or a friendly ear at the end of HA’s action line.”

If you need support please call the Hospitality Action help line: 0808 802 0282. It’s free, confidential and open 24/7.

London to Paris in memory of Paul: Challenge Completed

Denise nears the end of her cycle

Earlier this year we published Denise’s touching story. After suffering a tragic loss Denise summoned all her strength and determination to undertake an epic cycle challenge in aid of Hospitality Action.

In Denise’s words: “After my husband Paul committed suicide a friend suggested that it may help to have a future focus and so as we often spent Sunday mornings cycling, then perhaps it should involve some sort of cycle challenge; and so the idea of cycling from London to Paris began to take shape.

It was just coincidence that an organised charity London to Paris cycle was to set off on September the 12th 2018, the anniversary of Paul’s death. Being aware that anniversaries can throw up all sorts of unexpected memories and emotions I decided that it may be helpful to have a focus and a slightly daunting physical challenge to preoccupy me on that day. There was never any doubt that for me the charity I chose would have to be pertinent to Paul and his life and so I contacted Hospitality Action and there was no going back.

Five in the morning, London, Wednesday the 12th of September was a dark, wet and gloomy awakening. Myself and two friends met with another seventy three damp but keen cyclists in a drenched London park. We set off enthusiastically through busy London traffic. Suburbia soon gave way to country lanes, however the rain never really went away and being used to quiet Scottish roads, with the occasional car, that gave cyclists a wide berth, the proximity of constant traffic forced me to concentrate. After approximately 95 miles we gathered in a pub in Dover, a swift half Guinness then we cycled en mass to the ferry. After a long and bittersweet day it was lights off and in bed for midnight in Calais.

Seven o’clock start and it was a promising one, patches of blue could be seen overhead. After an initial cold start the day kept on improving as did the scenery. The cycling proved to be undulating with a few technical hitches (my friend experienced two punctures). Lunch was spectacular and was reminiscent of a medieval banquet laid out in a historic monastery that looked like the grandest of chateaus. Our destination day two was Abbeville and as we reached it in good time we celebrated with a verre de vin blanc or two in a local bar named The Royal Bar which just happened to be the same name as a favourite bar in our old home town.

Seven thirty start and after cycling across an atmospheric Somme it was then head down for a series of gruelling climbs. Once again the scenery was idyllic although I became aware that it all must have looked very different once as we passed by many religious statues and war graves. We reached the busy city of Beauvais at what seemed like rush hour and with less than half a mile to go to the hotel I fell at a roundabout, a momentary lapse in concentration while looking down at the sat nav and CRASH down I went while still clipped in, a very kind French lady stopped to ask ‘ca va’ and so my school French kicked in and I replied ‘Ca va bien merci’ , got back on the bike and found the hotel.

Denise and her group celebrate at the Eiffel Tower

Next morning was touch and go as to whether I’d be fit to cycle but after many drugs (supplied by a bona fide GP) and taping of my shoulder I was good, if not fit, to go. Fifty five miles on a bike in pain was pretty tough, however I was buoyed along by a stop at one of Van Gogh’s many houses, lunch in a park in Paris with the most delicious cheese, then cycling around the Arc de Triomphe and the final destination of the Eiffel Tower. The Parisians were fantastically hospitable and then reaching the end despite my fall felt quietly but massively empowering after the year that had went before.

Throughout my travels I was constantly aware of the hospitality and provision of nourishment we received. More than most I am aware of the long hours, hard work and personal sacrifice that is often made by those who provide and serve the food we eat. I am eternally grateful to them for this service, Paul loved his industry and it was to honour him that I cycled these miles to raise money for Hospitality Action.”

We at HA remain indebted to Denise for the great lengths she undertook in our honour. The hours of training and personal sacrifice that the challenge demanded were met head on by this truly inspiring fundraiser and for this we are so very grateful. If you’d like to make a donation to Denise’s fundraising page you can do so here. And of course if you’d like to take part in your own challenge event, for any reason at all, please give me a ring on 020 3004 5504 to learn about the many options available.

 

 

Pulling together to make a difference: Hywel Jones explains why he supports HA

I first became involved with the Hospitality Action Beaufort polo lunch event some eight years ago. Back then the event was half the size it is today and I was joined in the kitchen by Martin Burge and Sam Moody with Michael Croft heading up the kitchen team. Over the years I’ve witnessed the event grow in size, the amount of chefs involved double, but most importantly my understanding of the important work Hospitality Action does has grown significantly.

The 2011 Polo Day chefs

There is no hiding from the fact that the hospitality industry can be a difficult industry to work in but equally it’s a very close knit community which is why I’m sure so many of us feel strongly about helping Hospitality Action to ‘look after our own’.

The 2018 brigade alongside Susan Shore

So for me once again to be a part of this year’s event was an opportunity I jumped at.  This year I was once again joined by Rob Potter from the Manor House Castle Combe, Richard Davies from Calcot Manor, Robby Jenks from The Vineyard at Stockcross, Niall Keating from Whatley Manor and André Garret from Cliveden. We were also joined by Kris Biggs from The Rectory Hotel who although was not with us last year is somewhat a veteran of the event from his time with Martin and Richard Edwards.

The planning started back in January. Rob and André were assigned to starters, Niall and Richard to main course, Robby and I were making the desserts and Kris was preparing the afternoon teas. Our first task was to decide on our ‘common’ ingredient. Basically each group of chefs choose one ingredient that they will both use and build their dishes around that. For this year the ingredients chosen to use were salmon for the starter, lamb for the main course and raspberries for dessert. It’s always interesting to see how different the chef’s creations can be even when using the same ingredients.

Some of the delicious dishes on offer

Once the main menu is agreed we then take care of all the other details such as sourcing ingredients and sponsors, wine pairings, dietary requirements, bread and so on. This is where I begin to realise how lucky I am to be working with these other chefs. For each and every one of them nothing was too much trouble. I know how busy these guys are but anything I asked for one of them would put their hands up. Biggest shout out this year went to Rob who took on the role of making the bread from Niall who did it last year. Come the event, Rob and Mikey his pastry chef stayed up the entire night prior baking the bread, respect due!

On to the weekend itself. Richard and myself went along on the Saturday to begin arranging all the kitchen areas of the marquee. The front of house led by the amazing Sue Shore were already busy arranging and setting up all the tables and front of house areas. Once we had set up and tested all the equipment it was back to our hotels to put the finishing touches to all our food prep in readiness for the big day.

Before the guests arrived

Sunday arrived and by 8am the teams had all started arriving. The weather was once again on our side and there was that sudden moment of realisation that this is it, if we have not thought of it by now it’s too late!

Thankfully though the biggest drama we had was a fryer that we could not get lit. This was no issue for Richard though, he simply jumped in his 911 and sped off to Calcot (within the National speed limit he assured us) to use the fryer there.

From then on the day flew by; first the canapés were served closely followed by the lunch itself. The food these guys produced was outstanding and when you consider that they cooked for 300 guests in basically a big tent in a field it’s even more impressive. It was a pleasure to cook alongside them.

Guests enjoying the hospitality

Finally once the afternoon tea was served there was time to breathe so in true chef’s form the beers were cracked open and the banter started to fly.

It’s a great feeling knowing that you have all worked together as a team towards a common goal and achieved it. I took my eldest son along to help on the day and he said in the car on the way home that it’s the best day he’s ever had in a kitchen.

I asked him why he thought that and he said he liked the way everyone worked together to help each other out. I guess we never really know in life when we will need help but it’s reassuring to know that in our industry if or when we do need help it’s there through Hospitality Action.

This year we raised over £50,000 at the lunch. Being a part of such an event is a very rewarding experience and one I’m very proud of.

Hospitality Action is such an amazing charity with an incredible team driving it forward. The more people that get behind the stronger it will get and this is where we can all lend a hand. If you feel you can help, get in touch with the team and be a part of something special. Give them a call: 020 3004 5504 or email fundraising@hospitalityaction.org.uk to see how you can get involved and improve the lives of others.

 

In Service Through Friendship by Madeline Calon

The Society of the Golden Keys of Great Britain and the Commonwealth  has a long standing relationship with Hospitality Action (HA). We are a friendly association of hotel concierge that has been in existence since 1952, when a group of Head Hall Porters of several leading London Hotels met and agreed to set up an organisation which closely resembled one formed in France called Les Clefs d’Or (The Golden Keys). The first President was Mr Jimmy Stewart (not the actor!) and he served from 1952 until 1956. As the 20th President of the Society I am thrilled to be able to carry on the great work of all those who have gone before me and of course, continue to work closely with HA.

Within the Society we actually mirror some of the services offered by HA. The Welfare Officer is there to support and acknowledge the numerous life changing events of our members and we send flowers, fruit and cards to any member who falls ill, or are housebound. For our retired members we hold an annual lunch, and send them Christmas cards and gifts, and the Welfare Officer telephones and visits as many of our members as is humanly possible. HA offer a similar service via the Golden Friends scheme, and I’m sure it is purely coincidence that their support network is also “Golden”!

The Society has been a keen supporter of HA for decades, long before I became a member of the Golden Keys back in 1996. I have strong memories of previous committee members encouraging us to support HA and I am so proud to be able to continue this tradition. Each year the Society raises funds by taking part in the London 10K run and participating in an Annual Charity Golf tournament. The raffle proceeds from our annual Gala Dinner and Dance are always donated to HA and this year I had the pleasure of presenting a cheque for £9,170 and hope to continue our fundraising for many years to come.

Some of our London 10K team
Taken at our 2018 Golf Day

I would urge everyone to find a way to support HA’s fantastic work, either by fundraising in your own unique style, or by donating your time to telephone past employees who may be feeling lonely. In Service Through Friendship is the motto of The Golden Keys and nothing represents this better than our friendship with HA. If you are part of a hospitality association or society and would like to get involved with the charity please email fundraising@hospitalityaction.org.uk or telephone 020 3004 5504. The relationships you form by doing so could last decades.

 

How raising money for Hospitality Action can improve your life and the lives of others, by Troy Smith

                     Troy tackles Tough Mudder

Hospitality Action is our industry charity and does fantastic work helping people across the industry. Raising money for the charity has turned out to be one of the best decisions I have ever made, as my fundraising journey has led me to try out activities I now love. I’ve now raised over £10,000 for Hospitality Action (HA). Doing so has enriched my life as well as supporting those in our industry who are not so fortunate. Here’s my story.

My involvement with HA began when the legendary and much-missed Peter Hazzard invited me to join the charity’s London board, when it launched, over a decade ago.

I had been in the hospitality industry for 14 years by then and had worked with various industry associations. But what appealed to me about HA was that it allowed me to give something back to an industry that had been kind to me through my career, providing me and my family with a good life style.

In 2010, Peter asked if I wanted to run the Great British London 10k Run in aid of HA.

At the time I played badminton once a week and was a gym-member at Virgin Active, doing various classes through the week.

“No problem”, I said, “but 10k is too easy – I’ll do it with a 10kg jacket on, to try and raise even more sponsorship”.

I ordered my 10kg jacket. When it arrived, I went straight to the gym and jumped on the treadmill. Immediately, the realisation hit me like a hammer blow: I was in no shape to run 10k without the jacket, let alone with it.

I had to start from scratch. Day by day, month by month, I added more and more weight while I trained. By the time of the race in July 2011, I had lost nearly two stones in weight. I finished the 10k in 46 minutes with the 10kg jacket on and raised over £1000 for Hospitality Action in the process. From then on, I was hooked – finding new sporting challenges to help raise money for HA became my mission.

I repeated the London 10k in 2012 and raised another £1000. However, it was tougher finding sponsors this time, so I knew the next year I had to try something a bit different.

Troy running the Portsmouth Half Marathon with a smile

The following year I decided to try four big races, the Portsmouth Half Marathon, the Viva Extreme 9-mile assault course, the Tough Mudder 12-mile extreme assault course and The Great British 10K run.

These were all gruelling, especially my first half marathon in Portsmouth, half of which is run on the beach. At one point, my trainer stuck deep in mud on the beach and came off my foot. I went flying and smacked my face on the rocks. After a quick clean-up I got back on it and finished in a reasonable 1hr 41mins. This set of races raised another £1000 for Hospitality Action.

                                          Record Breaker

In 2014, I completed six big races and went for a Guinness world record. The highlight of the races was completing one of the world’s toughest Tough Mudders, 2000 feet up in the mountains of Colorado, Snowmass in Aspen. The World record was an abdominal hover plank with 100lbs on my back (46kg) in a rucksack. I trained for six months for this. I failed my first attempt, which was frustrating as many people came to support me and I had beaten the record in practice the week before. However, a month later, I smashed the record, adding another 25 seconds to record 3mins 20 seconds. To this day this is one of my greatest sporting achievements. I also managed to raise £1100 for HA.

The Great Wall Marathon in       Beijing, China

The following year, 2015, I wanted to compete in an epic race that would raise more money than before and discovered the third toughest marathon on planet Earth: The Great Wall Marathon in Beijing, China. Despite running in 90-degree heat and climbing over 5000 steep steps, I conquered the challenge in 5hrs 20mins non-stop and raised over £3000 in the process. When you consider that the winner completed it in 3hrs 45mins and he was a professional marathon runner, you get a sense of how difficult the race is – the London Marathon takes just over two hours.

For this challenge, I secured sponsorship from twelve hospitality companies in return for logos on my running vest. This was a much quicker and easier way of raising funds. I charged £250 per logo. In return, I gave sponsors as much social media coverage as possible, to ensure they felt they got value from the sponsorship.

                                                      Troy in training

My most recent charity event was one of my toughest. It meant learning a totally new brutal sport called Crossfit. It’s one of the world’s fastest growing sports and is best described as a decathlon on heat. Over 250,000 people around the world take part in the Crossfit Open every year and there are 10,000 people in my category, the Masters 50-55 years old division.

It’s a mixture of Olympic weight lifting, gymnastics including handstand walking and muscle-ups, cycling, rowing, running and swimming. I had to learn lots of different complex skills to enable me to compete at a high level. To prepare, I followed an individually-coached training programme seven days a week for three years.

I entered the European Masters Throwdown one of the leading Crossfit competitions in Europe held in Budapest, Hungary. I managed to get industry sponsors on my training top from the likes of Hilton Hotels, Hotelympia, Beacon, Pelican, Frasershot and many other companies in the Hospitality Industry. I qualified for the finals, finished in 11th place in Europe overall – and raised £3150 for HA.

My story shows that you can have fun, improve your health, enrich your life and do good, if you decide to support HA. If you are considering a challenge or thinking about raising money for this great charity, my message would be: do it! The rewards will follow in so many ways.

Taking Hospitality Action nationwide: teamwork and philanthropy, Northern-style… By Kevin Haygarth

People often ask me questions about Hospitality Action, which allows me to stand on my soapbox and wax lyrically with pride about our amazing charity. I tell them all of the stuff that we do and that it’s not just about chefs!

My family (usually my mother), asks me about being involved with HA, and about being the designated Chair for the Northern Fundraising Board in this non-lofty, non-elevated, and non-ivory tower, yet fabulous position… (I think she still pictures me in school shorts and an elasticated tie!).

She inquires, “When it comes to board leadership what puts you above the rest?” The answer to that (for me) is simple – “nothing”.

In my view, a good Chair works with great people. People who are doers. Folk who want to make a difference and take ownership of tasks, and who all share the ability to see the bigger picture and the overall mission and vision. And that’s what we are.

We are a tightly-knit and diverse group of professional hospitality people acting as one team, investing our time and energy to generate successful results and funds to help others.

Hospitality people meet, greet, entertain, liaise, interact, nurture, serve, and form professional bonds with companies, organisations, and individuals, and I believe that one of the common values that all of the people on the Board in the North share is that we are all ‘relationship magicians!’ We are only as good as the wonderful people we connect with and build warm, open, and honest relationships with.

We are fortunate to attend some amazing fundraising events, and we have huge support from the team at Head Office and from our regional co-ordinator, and we are building relationships across a plethora of towns and cities which spreads the word, widens the net, and affords me lots more emails!

We sometimes ask tough questions of one another and indeed of the organisation, but it’s always done through the lens of helping. We all do different things in our day-to-day lives and we all have varying skill sets which allow us to press forward and achieve great things, although we have yet to find a board colleague willing to whittle animal shapes out of soap for prizes for the raffle!

We are proud and honoured to be hosting and celebrating some of the region’s culinary talents at our Northern Lights Gala Dinner, on 1 October at the Lowry Hotel in Salford.

Five dream-team chefs are coming together in the kitchen to create an extravaganza of dishes to tantalise our taste-buds.

The kitchen team:

Starter: James Mackenzie, The Pipe & Glass Inn
Fish course: Ellis Barrie, The Marram Grass (Great British Menu Finalist 2017)
Main course: Gary Usher, Sticky Walnut                                                                            Cheese Savoury: Steven Smith, Freemasons at Wiswell
Dessert: Adam Reid, The French at The Midland Hotel.

Details of the event can be found here.

I’ll leave you with this, which kind of sums us up:

If we were Farmers in’t North, some of us would pick’th cabbages, some of us would feed’th animals, some of us would milk’th cows, and some of us would do’th paperwork!