Simon Boyle’s London Restaurant Brigade
Simon Boyle, Chef and Owner of Brigade restaurant in London, tells Firestyle how London’s Oldest Fire Station was transformed into a restaurant whilst helping the local community.
On Boxing day 2004, I watched the TV and the destruction of the worst Tsunami in living history unfold. As everyone on that day, I wanted to help, in fact, I was desperate to help. But because I had travelled extensively in many of the areas hit, I decided rather than just provide a financial donation, I would rather give my skills to a relief team in Sri Lanka. It was doing this that I realised that I was capable of helping people in my day-to-day work. This started a lifelong passion and commitment to help and support vulnerable people and the Beyond Food Foundation was born.
The first few years were spent in Soho London, a former homeless hostel The House of St Barnabas, I turned it into a bespoke hospitality venue. Homelessness was something we understood in part and in others it was frustrating that so many homeless stay homeless for so long. This frustration soon turned into a burning ambition to conquer.
Then we moved into the city, next to a church on Byward street. We started to polish our vision of what we wanted to offer the homeless and public sectors. We created two concepts ‘Freshlife’ a primary engagement programme that focuses on the homeless well-being, purpose and commitment to move forward and become employable. And the ‘United Kitchen Apprenticeship’ a 13-month professional chef apprenticeship programme, fully accredited. We campaigned in hostels and job-centres to recruit vulnerable people onto our programmes. Over time we started to build a name for the result we were getting.
In 2010, we started to understand our impact and set to work on a new growth vision. We needed to find a more suitable building in which to bring the vision into a reality.
Right about the same time, PwC were building their new head office at More London near London Bridge. An amazing organisation that needed a brand new building to house five thousand people for its UK head office. In front of PwC on Tooley street sat a small and unused Fire Station. It was the last site to be redeveloped by More London Estates. Together the PwC Executive Board and I started to hatch out a plan to bring a fresh approach to the oldest Fire Station in the city of London.
In September 2011, Brigade Bar and Bistro opened in the two bottom floors of the Fire Station. Working in partnership with the Beyond Food Foundation, PwC and De Vere Venues inspire and motivate people that have been or are at risk of becoming homeless.
Today Brigade is a unique Social Enterprise; there is a British bistro with a relaxed dining restaurant, conference facilities, private dining rooms and a cookery school. It uses its profits to continue the great work of the Beyond Food Foundation. It’s really a fantastic social partnership that helps homeless individuals develop skills and motivation to find employment whilst being fully supported by the incredible team. Transforming lives is a day-to-day occurrence. Beyond Food have a range of great ways to help, such as a monthly supper club, its really worth coming to whilst providing funds to inspire even more people.