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.

Enjoy a pub quiz, transform hospitality lives

We’re edging closer to the night of Hospitality Action’s annual pub quiz fundraiser, the Big Fat Quiz.

If you haven’t been to the event before, imagine the biggest pub quiz ever, but with a delicious three-course dinner and wines in place of warm beer and a limp burger, and you won’t be far wrong.

We’ve got DJ legend Pat Sharp playing the part of quizmaster for a second year. And the inimitable Brian Turner will again be running the auction, armed only with his usual bundle of passion and energy, and a large ladle pinched from the Hilton kitchens.

Is it cheesy? Yes. Fun? Hell, yes.

Our quiz is a perfect opportunity to get in some team-building and some fun with your colleagues. Who knows, you might even be crowned the brainiest hospitality business in the land. Imagine the bragging rights over your competitors …

So: pub quiz, fun with your mates, great food, oodles of wine, some wonderful raffle and auction prizes – reasons enough to come along, right?

Here’s another reason.

By attending our quiz next month, you’ll be directly supporting our work to help people who work or have worked in hospitality and find themselves in difficulty or crisis.

If that doesn’t inspire you to commit to memory the last ten Presidents of the United States, the world’s longest river and the order of Henry VIII’s wives, and make a beeline for the Hilton Park Lane, nothing will.

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.”