Our chat with rugby legend, HA Patron and all round top bloke, Phil Vickery

Phil Vickery MBE DL, former rugby international and winner of Celebrity Masterchef is HA’s newest Patron. Phil will be joining hundreds of other supporters in the upcoming Cotswold Cycle Challenge which takes place on Monday 10th June  from the stunning Calcot.

We caught up with him to talk food, cycling and how to get motivated.

Phil with HA’s IT Director Neslihan at last year’s event

You were introduced to Hospitality Action by Creed Foodservice, tell us a bit about your role there.

I’ve been a non-exec director since 2017, Creed’s values and positioning are a great natural fit with my personal interest in identifying the beliefs and characteristics that make us all so different and enable us to achieve our ambitions, however big or small. The partnership is built around a shared commitment to achieving more by believing in yourself. For Creed, that means being far more than just a foodservice wholesaler, it aims to celebrate the human values at the heart of the business that are encapsulated by the company’s motto, ‘Believe in More’.

John Torode said of you ‘Phil loves to cook to make people smile’. What made you fall in love with food after a successful rugby career?

I’ve always had an interest in the food industry, going back to my family and farming so it wasn’t a great surprise I was drawn to it.

During my rugby career it was about knowledge and learning about health, nutrition and diet. Using this to be a successful sportsman was very important. When Masterchef came up I didn’t go on the show to think I was going to win it, I was just really interested in it. I kept thinking, “don’t get knocked out first!”

It sounds gushy but I fell in love with food – not that I ever fell out of love with food, I’ve always enjoyed food, but when surrounded by people who share the same interest and care, enthusiasm, passion. It is all about talking about and being around food.

What attracted you to get involved with Hospitality Action?

I’ve seen both sides of it. As a Patron of HA, I am very lucky. We go to events that are catered for with amazing food. It comes out, well presented, hot food, lots of flavours and we don’t really think where it comes from or the work it takes making it look so good.

But I know from being involved behind the scenes and spending time preparing, understanding the pressures of preparation etc. just how hard it can be. I think the hospitality industry is taken a little bit for granted. We need to think a little more about what we are demanding; we want good food, we want it on time etc, we want it perfect, but remember – there is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes.

What are the similarities between a professional kitchen and professional sport?

It’s all about camaraderie and team work. I recently spent time in Port Issac at Nathan Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen. I saw how the team had a level of professionalism and detail unlike any other, their work ethic and approach was very similar to those that have to be present to succeed in sport. But funnily enough it works both ways, I was recently with the Raging Bull team in Oxford Street, they are all asking questions about food and we just had a great time sharing information and recipe ideas.

Phil and his Creed Foodservice team

Tell us about your transition from Rugby to riding a bike?

 I’ve always ridden a bike. In rugby, more like a static bike for training but also took out a road bike often so it was a natural progression. Plus it’s a non-impact sport so it’s good for my old joints.

 Where and how often do you ride?

The Cotswolds is a brilliant place to ride with lots of open space, I don’t get to ride as much as I’d like all year around, but I’m training hard for the Cotswold ride in June.

What else do you do to relax?

Exercise & cooking. I’m certainly not a chef, I’m a cook. I love time spent with friends, family, events etc. all coming together over food.

Which route are you taking on for the Cotswold ride and what do you think your time will be?

The 40-mile route I’m not going to commit to a time but it will be faster than last year, I have trained more and feel prepared. Plus the Creed gang will work as a team.

How do you get and keep the motivation to train for an event?

The main motivational requirement is not the event itself, it is getting to the event. For example; the hardest bit about training this morning wasn’t the training I did, it was the drive there! Pushing yourself to get out and do it. Once you’re there, it is a team spirit and we’re all part of it. The motivation is needed to get there and know you are going to try your hardest and finish the cycle.

What’s your favourite post-ride meal?

After the cycle last year we went to a lovely Argentinian grill with burgers at Calcot – that was delicious.

You can join Phil, the Creed Foodservice team and hundreds more hospitality friends at Le Tour De Cuisine Cotswold Cycle Challenge at Calcot on Monday 10th June To find out more and get involved click here or email Maria Carter mcarter@hospitalityaction.org.uk for further information.

In from the cold – our winter fuel campaign round-up

Each year HA gives thousands of pounds in winter fuel grants and this season saw particularly high demand. Grants are made to Golden Friends and people of working age in financial hardship of working age. Jo Raine from our Grants Team takes up the story…..

“Government figures show that around 2.5 million households in the UK cannot afford to heat their homes to an adequate temperature. Fuel poverty is caused by low incomes, high energy prices and energy inefficient housing.

Research published last year revealed  that fuel poverty is directly linked to more than 3,000 deaths a year . Beyond the terrible scale of cold-related deaths, people experiencing fuel poverty have an increased risk of health issues such as cardiovascular and respiratory problems. Living in a cold home can also impact on mental health and social isolation.

We are delighted that Hospitality Action’s Winter Fuel Grant programme, which is kindly sponsored by the Worshipful Company of Innholders, has helped more than 300 households on low incomes to heat their homes this winter.  Each household has benefited from a one-off grant of £150 towards their winter fuel bills.

This year we have awarded in excess of £45,000 in Winter Fuel Grants. Over two-thirds of recipients are members of our Golden Friends Scheme for retirees from the hospitality industry. However, nearly a third of our Winter Fuel Grants have been awarded to people currently working in the industry, demonstrating that many households in employment are also struggling to pay their bills.

Nearly 80% of those we have helped say that that if it wasn’t for our grant they would have gone without heating in certain rooms, and 45% say that in order to pay their fuel bills they would have had to forego other essentials including food.

Comments from grant recipients illustrate the broader impact of fuel poverty on physical and mental health:

Without your help I would be so cold which makes my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome worse – which ends up making my depression worse with worry.

Thank you very much. If it gets too cold I stay in bed till noon and back at 7.30

Thank you so much. It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to use more gas and keep warm instead of being cold with extra clothes and blankets.

To know that I can have the heating on for longer each day is one less thing to worry about.

Thank you for your grant towards my winter fuel bill…I know if I can be warm I can be healthy.

With this grant I can let my grandchildren come and see me – usually my flat is too cold for them.

From these comments and all the other feedback we receive, the message couldn’t be clearer.  Help towards winter fuel costs is beneficial in so many ways to those who would otherwise be struggling through the colder months.”

Join the ranks of Jason Atherton and Tom Kerridge this summer

Over the last few weeks we have been overwhelmed with support for Social Sunday 2019 as operators across the UK have mobilised to help their industry colleagues in need. But we still need more businesses to join in and fundraise for us this summer on Sunday 7th July.

When you do you’ll be in good company; taking your place alongside Principal Patron Jason Atherton, Tom Kerridge, and Tom Kitchin to name but a few. We are proud to be supported by operators large and small from all corners of the country, from national brands like Park Plaza Hotels to independent operators including The Working Boat pub in Cornwall, Bourgee in Norwich and The Freemasons at Wiswell in Lancashire.

Tom Kerridge calls upon the industry to support Social Sunday

Here are our top five Social Sunday fundraising ideas:

  1. Host a big-name chef from another part of the country to run a pop-up in your property.
  2. Create a special dish, cocktail or even menu to showcase your culinary innovations and excite customers.
  3. Add just £1 to diners’ bills for the first week of July (or even the whole month). You’ll be amazed just how much can build up.
  4. Open up for a special Sunday lunch service. After all, it’s how Jason Atherton came up with Social Sunday in the first place.
  5. Engage your suppliers. Ask your local butcher or veg supplier to provide produce free of charge for Social Sunday and pass the saving to HA. It’s a great way for your suppliers to show their commitment to the industry and to strengthen relationships.

No matter what you do your donation could help us support a family facing financial hardship due to injury, relationship breakdown or mental health problems. We provide practical solutions to everyday problems to keep families together and help people back on their feet quickly and with dignity. You could be closer to somebody we’ve helped than you realise.

To find out more visit our website and get in touch to tell us what you’re planning.

We look forward to hearing from you

Mental Health First Aider, an important role in every business

Following last week’s #timetotalkday which encouraged people to talk about mental health in their personal and professional life, we are proud to announce that we have our own mental health first aider at Hospitality Action. Here, newly-qualified MHFA Jo Raine, tells us a bit about her new role.

Global research indicates that one person in four will experience some form of mental health issue in the course of a year. Anxiety, depression and substance use disorders are the most common mental health illnesses in the UK. Throughout the course of any person’s life it is highly likely they will either develop mental ill health themselves or have a friend or relative who does. Yet the long-standing stigma around mental illness means that many people have a limited understanding of mental health issues and fail to seek the support they need.

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is an internationally recognised education and training programme. The aim of the programme is to extend the concept of first aid training to include mental health issues so that help can be offered to a person developing a mental health issue, experiencing the worsening of an existing mental health issue or in a mental health crisis. The first aid is given until appropriate professional help is received or until the crisis appears to have been resolved.

When Hospitality Action decided to introduce a Mental Health First Aider to our office, I was delighted to be given the opportunity to train for the role. Having completed the two–day course to become a certified mental health first aider I now feel confident that I can recognise many of the signs and symptoms of common mental health illnesses and could effectively guide a colleague to appropriate support.

We learnt how to recognise the signs that someone may be experiencing a mental health issue. The course covered some challenging areas, such as myth-busting common misconceptions about suicide and self-harm, and there was plenty of time for questions and discussion of the role of mental first aid when someone is undergoing a crisis.

The training covers how to provide non-judgemental support and reassurance to a person who is experiencing a mental health issue and guide them to seek the professional support they may need to recover. It also touched on issues such as providing Mental Health First Aid to someone from a different cultural background, which is more likely to occur in the workplace than when supporting family and friends.

Independent research and evaluation shows that taking part in a Mental Health First Aid course raises awareness of mental illnesses, encourages early intervention to aid recovery, increases confidence in dealing with mental illnesses and reduces stigma. Thanks to the development of training courses like the one I went on, employers now have an opportunity to address ignorance about mental health in the workplace and help their employees to access appropriate support.

Happy and healthy staff are more likely to perform well, have good attendance levels, interact well with colleagues and make a valuable contribution to the workplace. Investing in a Mental Health First Aider is one important way in which employers can promote positive mental health in the workplace, for the benefit of all of us.

Our Employee Assistance Programme provides operators with access to a range of support services and counselling, to find out more contact Camilla Woods.

Watching the pounds

There are loads of ways to fundraise for Hospitality Action.

One of the simplest and most effective is simply adding a discretionary £1 to guest bills. Our bill round-up programme is one of the fastest growing, and easiest ways to support your industry charity. In our experience guests are only too happy to contribute to the good of the industry they so admire, and it’s a great conversation starter.

One of the businesses to pioneer £1 on the bill in 2017 was the fabulous team at The Vineyard at Stockcross, who raised over £7000 in their first year running the scheme.  It’s amazing that something so simple can quickly gather momentum and drive some seriously life-changing funds for Hospitality Action.

We asked The Vineyard’s Restaurant Manager Rebecca to tell us a little bit more about fundraising for HA.

How easy did you find it to set-up and implement the scheme? 

The set up and implementation of the scheme was very easy and we had all the support we needed from HA

How did you promote the scheme and its benefits to guests? 

It is written on to the bill and we keep the leaflets available if anyone wants to have further information as well as briefing the teams who feel confident to talk about the charity and its work.

What were the guest reactions to the scheme when you told them about it?

On the whole they were happy to pay the pound – some choose not to if they have other charities they support but on the whole it has been very well supported and there’s never been an awkward moment.

The scheme at The Vineyard raised around £7,000 for Hospitality Action – how do you feel about that? 

Very happy – that’s 7,000 diners who have supported a scheme which means that the teams that looked after them have support later on in life if they need it.

What do you think are the benefits of supporting a charity like Hospitality Action? 

We have always had a charity that we raise money for – it is great that this charity now directly links into what we do – if people enjoy dining and staying out then supporting a charity like this makes complete sense. The story of Le Manoir’s Mitchell Collier really impacted our team and brought home to us how important it is to do our bit for HA.

Would you recommend the scheme to other restaurants, and if so, why?

Yes – that such a small amount on each bill can raise so much money is fantastic. And again, being part of something that directly links to each individual who works here has raised further awareness of the benefits available to them.

Adding just £1 may not seem like much, but you’ll be amazed at how much money you can raise to support your colleagues and fellow industry professionals through times of hardship.

We want as many businesses as possible to take up the scheme which can easily be applied to hotel stays as well as restaurant bills.

To get started email us and we’ll give you all the resources you need. You can find further info about the programme on our website, or check out or blog over on the Social Sunday website to discover how Hai Cenato ran with the idea to do something fantastic.

Debt and un-seasonal visitors

Sadly, we continue to receive many calls from hospitality people who are living in fear of a visit from the bailiffs. In the UK 1 in 14 adults are in problem debt, and the financial pressures of the festive season often add to that burden regardless of whether there are extra shifts available during December.

Callers often complain of aggressive language in letters and intimidating behaviour from bailiffs on the doorstep. Debts can quickly spiral beyond control and leave people bewildered and at risk of having property re-possessed.

This issue has attracted national interest with people like  Martin Lewis the ‘Money Saving Expert’ calling for a change in the law to address the risk of suicide as a result of financial worries. A change in the law is something we’d applaud.

If you or a colleague is worried about mounting debt, there are lots of ways we can help you.

The first thing to do is not panic – pick up the phone and call our 24/7 helpline on 0808 802 0282 – we can give you practical advice to help get things back on track.

Specialist debt advice – working with our partner PayPlan we can help you come to terms with your debt levels and look at your best route forwards.

Psychological support – money matters can be stressful and put pressure on all aspects of daily life. We’re here to provide a friendly ear and practical advice.

Hardship grants – You may qualify for a grant to help you with household expenses to provide a little financial breathing space

Winter fuel grants (for working age and retired people) – fuel poverty is a real issue at this time of year, you may qualify for a grant to help with spiralling energy costs.

The stress caused by debt can be stressful and in extreme cases, life threatening so if you or a colleague are worried call us on 0808 802 0282 or for information on our grants visit the Grants page on our website or call the grants team on 020 3004 5500.

Forget Black Friday, we’ve got LOTS of awesome gifts

 

Before you get swept up in the consumerist wave of Black Friday and Cyber Monday take a moment to check out our 16th Christmas annual online auction.

Forget socks, flamingo egg cups (really, they’re a thing) or never-to-be-used vouchers for shops that only have three branches at the opposite end of the country. We’ve got some of the most unique and exciting gifts for the foodie in your life.

Today sees the launch of our annual online auction. There are some amazing lots on offer including:

There are some unique experiences in our auction that make the perfect gift for that special someone. The final deadline for bids is 2pm on Friday November 30thget your bids in now.

Your gift won’t just make your loved one’s Christmas magical, you’ll be spreading some warmth to our beneficiaries. Your generosity could help a family through one of their most challenging times.

Plus, if you buy one of our lots we promise you won’t get involved in a brawl at ASDA over a TV.

Going once… Going twice… Get bidding!

 

 

The type of experience money can’t buy.

One of the amazing things about HA is the lengths our supporters will go to in order to create wonderful fundraising events. Experiences that are so unique and special you simply couldn’t buy them anywhere else for all the money in the world. Our Christmas dinner is just one example, bringing together some of the biggest names in European cuisine.

If you want to be part of this evening there are just a handful of tickets left, get yours here. The event takes place at Chino Latino at Park Plaza London Riverbank at 7pm on Monday November 26th.

As if having the legend that is Raymond Blanc cook for you isn’t enough – he’s also bringing along some of his protégés and the people he has influenced. All superstars in their own right.

 Let’s start with the three musketeers themselves

Raymond Blanc OBE, Benoit Blin & Gary Jones 

Best-selling author and star of numerous television programmes including the BBC’s ‘Kew on a Plate’ and ‘Kitchen Secrets’ Raymond Blanc OBE has nurtured some of the country’s most respected chefs and 34 of his protégées have gone on to win Michelin stars for themselves. Monsieur Blanc’s Executive Head Chef, Gary Jones has led the kitchen brigade at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons since 1999 and his Chef Pâtissier Benoit Blin has twice been a judge on the BBC2 Bake Off Crème de la Crème programme and more recently Channel 4s Bake Off, The Professionals. These three are the powerhouses behind Le Manoir ensuring the hotel retains its much-coveted stars and topping The Caterer’s Hoteliers Hotels power-list for the second year running. And they could be cooking for you.

Meet the rest of the dynamic half-dozen behind the stoves.

Robin Gill

In 2013 Robin opened The Dairy which has reached number nine in The National Restaurant Awards, the top 50 in the Good Food Guide and was awarded a Bib Gourmand this past September. Robin has also opened the popular Counter Culture and Sorella restaurants and has received the Good Food Guide Chef of the Year award and has also acted as a judge on MasterChef Ireland.

Aggi Sverrisson

Iceland-born Aggi has spent time at the Michelin-starred restaurant Pétrus, the highly acclaimed Léa Linster in Luxembourg and of course, at the two Michelin-starred Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons. His own flagship venture, Texture Restaurant, was voted The Independent’s New Restaurant of the Year in 2007 and received its first Michelin star in 2010.

Werner Seebach

The evening will be hosted by Executive Group Chef Werner Seebach of Chino Latino who will prepare the delicious canapés and petits fours. Werner joined Chino Latino at the Riverbank Park Plaza hotel as Head Chef before being appointed Group Head Chef for Chino Latino London, Leeds, and Nottingham, winning a Catey award for Best Restaurant Team Of The Year.

This promises to be one of the culinary events of the year with some of the biggest chefs on the scene all behind the stoves together. Raymond will be conducting a live Q&A so you can find out some of the secrets to his success at first hand.

The last few tickets are on sale now, make sure you bag one while you can!

Reflections on joining HA, and why our work is more important than ever.

Hi, I’m Jeremy, and it’s my third week as the newly-appointed Marketing Director at Hospitality Action.

During my career I’ve been lucky enough to work close to the hospitality industry for The Caterer magazine, and in digital fundraising for the international charities WaterAid and Christian Aid. I’m looking forward to bringing my experience to HA as we embark on the next exciting phase in our evolution.

The highlight of my first week was getting to experience the generosity of our supporters at first hand. I was lucky enough to join chefs Jose Pizarro along with Chris and Jeff Galvin as they prepared signature dishes for an audience of fans, foodies and suppliers – all for the benefit of HA. I was taken with how committed they were both to their own teams but also the wellbeing of the wider industry. As the auction lots rolled in, I felt a real sense of pride for our industry and those who work to support it.

As a marketing chap, I’ll be thinking about how we describe ourselves, our beneficiaries, supporters and what we do. World Mental Health Day last week was a great thought starter.

There has been a step change in the way we talk about mental health, and it’s a fantastic thing to see. From Chef Andrew Frost who took to Instagram to share the story of how HA’s action line had helped him, to high profile leaders like Sat Bains symbolically removing themselves from social media to raise awareness of the pressures of our always-on lifestyle. Our friends (and my former colleagues) at The Caterer even dedicated a whole issue of the magazine to the campaign. All of these things point to a de-stigmatisation of mental health which is something HA and other charities have been working towards for years and a fact we should celebrate.

I can’t wait to start work on developing the way we communicate how we help people and the difference it makes to their lives. Ours is a fraternal industry and the people who HA help aren’t miles away – they’re our colleagues, friends and employees – and who knows – maybe one day, any one of us could need a bit of help. HA, and the wider industry helps out our friends in a time of need to help them get back on their feet. I’m keen to evolve how we tell these stories and to develop new ways that you can support us to do more of this vitally important work.

Watch this space! I’m keen to hear any comments, stories or thoughts, drop them in the comments section below or email me at jgibson at hospitalityaction.org.uk