“An Army Marches on its Stomach” has been a phrase used over the centuries and something that is more than well known by people in the hospitality industry of course some regard them as Caterers, nevertheless however you perceive people in the industry, they are often multi skilled, resilient, resourceful and often the unsung heroes at times of distress and emergency.
The provision of food for a working army defending an unusual situation involves identifying the need and adapting the resources available to accommodate what is needed. It can be at a designated site or needs to be delivered to a site or available for collection. All of this has to be taken into account, making sure that the provision is prepared, is adequate for the need and in safe environments for the benefit of those that require to be supported in any role that they are undertaking.
Caterers who have been in the industry for many years have skills that are often underestimated and can adapt quite easily to a challenge. Members of the Reunion des Gastronomes comprise of such people, with experience, leadership skills in the industry over years and this is being demonstrated with enthusiasm and willingness to meet the challenges today. Hotels are making rooms available for key workers; restaurants and corporate catering companies are making take away foods and food parcels for delivery to local communities that are available for NHS workers and vulnerable people. Others closer to home are engaging with their local communities providing things to do, often related with food.
Gastronome, Ken Milton (General Manager and owner), Clarendon Hotel, Blackheath SE London whose hotel has made their rooms available for key NHS workers (30 – 50 NHS Staff per night) from a local hospital providing them with accommodation, food delivered to their rooms, keeping them safe and healthy. Staff usually stay in batches of seven nights after which the room is deep cleaned and left vacant for 48 hours. In addition, the kitchen brigade is also providing hot meals to the Cygnet Hospital, a specialist hospital for men with mental health illness.
Gastronome Miles Pooley (Chief Executive) and Gastronome Serge Pradier (Director of Food & Beverage) head the team at the RAF Club providing accommodation and facilities for MOD workers specially seconded. A small team has been set up of staff who have had to have additional training and guidance on how to provide services in these unusual circumstances so that they also remain safe and healthy. Meals are not served in the usual communal areas but are delivered individually to rooms observing social distancing and guidelines as directed.
A similar situation is also at the Victory Services Club where accommodation and food services are being provided by Gastronome, Mark Field (Operations Director) and Gastronome, Paul Mattocks (Executive Chef) who have built up a small team of staff to facilitate the requirements.
Gastronome Bill Brogan (Catering & Conference Manager) at Saint John’s College Cambridge with his Kitchen Team providing food to local care homes.
Gastronome Simon Esner (Director at WSH Group) mobilising the resources and catering facilities of Baxter Storey providing meal boxes for key workers as they finish their shifts. Helping them not to go home and having to source foods and subsequently prepare and cook.
Gastronome, Andrew Gosling (Managing Director) TheFoodShow and his team are working with Millie’s Cookies who have donated 100K freshly baked milk chocolate cookies for NHS workers. Thanks to a partnership between SSP UK, Delice de France and Electrolux – they are going to be delivered over the coming weeks to the front-line heroes.
These examples are just a snippet of the tenacity and what can be achieved when the community works together and mobilises all the talents that are available.
Our own Secretary, Vic Laws is not only giving a cookery competition challenge to the children in his local community, he is also organising NHS fund raising quizzes for organisations such as the Association of Catering Excellence (ACE) and the Chaine des Rotisseurs UK.
More locally, people are providing foods for their neighbours and vulnerable people near to their own homes. There will be many stories to be recounted as time goes on and tribute should be made to the unsung heroes who have supported the community in every way that is possible, whether it be frontline, dealing with patients or for providing the services to support those people.
There are so many that are keeping the flow of foods, equipment, servicing buildings, removing rubbish, doing shopping, making telephone calls to lonely vulnerable people – caring.
Every person is playing a part to fight this invisible war that is affecting us all in so many ways. We are all learning new lessons and taking more time to reflect on what the future will hold.