“We thought: let’s go and try to lead the charge. But it’s a big idea, we have experience delivering big ideas, let’s see who’s backing us.
Home Kitchen’s origins date back to the Covid lockdowns of 2020 when London Soup Kitchen worked on a threadbare team of volunteers to feed 160 people a day.
When the grueling task left the Whitfield Street soup kitchen chef exhausted and in need of a break, LSK co-founder Alex Brown called on Simmonds to step into the kitchen as the pandemic shuttered restaurants.
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“I felt a little embarrassed even asking him if he would be interested in coming because you look at what he’s accomplished in his career,” Brown said.
“I ask him to come and cook with ingredients where you don’t know what you get from day to day and he immediately jumped on it.”
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This sowed the seed for the start of the project. Since then, they have been working on setting up the infrastructure.
The group have scouted a location for the restaurant and are currently raising £450,000 to cover the restaurant’s rent and running costs, including staff salaries and training. In the meantime, owner Network Rail has retained the site as an option while it secures funding.
Efforts are also focused on recruitment and training with LSK working with the Beyond Food Foundation, Crisis, Beam and More Than a Pavement Away to find candidates who will benefit from this opportunity.
The job also involves researching job opportunities to go beyond Home Kitchen.
Meal delivery service Fresh Fitness Food has pledged to employ two people after the pop-up restaurant closes. Caspar Rose, General Manager of Fresh Fitness Food, said, “Our commitment to hire two initiative employees is a small role we can play in creating healthy communities and a healthy planet.”
Working with a group of completely new employees will be a new experience for Simmonds, who has won Michelin stars for his work at Ynyshir Hall in Wales and Adam Simmonds restaurant at Danesfield House in Buckinghamshire.
Simmonds told the Big Issue that his own personal challenges have inspired him to give others the tools to help themselves.
“I think it all comes down to practicing and believing and empathizing with what they’ve been through,” said Simmonds, who has previously performed on the BBC. Great British menu.
“I have gone through my own mental health and addiction challenges. In the end, I could have been on the streets four years ago, if I didn’t have my family behind me and that’s the reality of where I was. I’m not saying I went there, but he came close.
“But it’s not about me, it’s about giving the guys confidence and encouraging them. Yes, it’s a different environment than I’ve worked in before, but it’s about looking after them and making sure we can work as a team. It’s a big thing for me to be able to live up to these guys.”
Home Kitchen is expected to open in the coming weeks depending on fundraising progress.
The cost of living crisis will then have intensified with rising inflation and rising energy bills straining households and businesses despite Liz Truss’ support package.
But that didn’t deter the team behind the social enterprise. In fact, it has strengthened the will to concoct a larger solution to society’s social problems.
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“When there’s a great romantic idea, people support it and we think that’s what that idea is,” said Michael Brown.
“We don’t want him to live and die over the 13 week period, part of the reason we’re fundraising is so we can use him as a springboard to expand that, potentially as a franchise there where there is a homelessness problem.
To donate to The Home Kitchen, click here.