Talented chefs can rise up from the most unexpected places, even the street

In the UK a group of homeless and vulnerably housed people have crushed the stereotypical images of ‘homeless’ and created a pop up restaurant to feed the ‘housed’. The homeless team created, prepared and cooked a sumptuous menu, before serving diners in a project which is thought to be the first pop up restaurant with a twist – the Beacon House Supper Club.

Back in the summer, a homeless charity called Beacon House met with the team at redPepper Marketing. They were seeking a low resource and sustainable concept to help tell the story of their work, with a view to activating people to become ambassadors for the charity which offers services and facilities as well as support and acceptance to those in need. During the creative meetings with Vivienne Wiggins, Centre Manager at Beacon House, many ideas surfaced.

I pitched an idea that had been influenced by conversations I’ve had at the local soup kitchen where I volunteer each month. I had noticed that amongst the homeless people there was a lack of opportunities for them to use the culinary skills they had developed at training courses through the job centre, army and prisons.

This naturally led me to the idea of launching a pop-up restaurant which would be run by homeless men and women with all profits going towards the work of Beacon House. The pop-up restaurant would be held at the Waiting Room, a creative space in the former bus station in Colchester, which provides a café and bar alongside innovative enterprise and skills enhancement in an original environment. Vivienne loved the idea and the Beacon House Supper Club was born.

We decided that the chefs, who were not yet assembled, needed a consultant, so we branched out to Simon Collins, a friend of redPepper Marketing through the Waiting Room and resident chef being incubated there. He selflessly agreed even though it was a busy time with a baby due imminently and work taking place on the opening of a new restaurant, the Three Wise Monkeys. Our next step was to recruit the chefs. We started with two homeless people in the first development workshop but, by the time for the second workshop, word had spread and the team increased to five.

Support for the Beacon House Supper Club was unprecedented. The local press covered the story for three consecutive weeks in which time all 100 covers available were fully booked, even though the diners didn’t know what was on the menu until less than 24hrs before opening.

The first ever Beacon House Supper Club was a resounding success. People have been activated to show interest in Beacon House by realising through the stories told that they are not immune to having to seek help from Beacon House in the future, just as the very chefs serving them have had to – but it didn’t end there; through showing their worth two Beacon House Supper Club chefs have found full time employment with their consultant, Simon Collins at his new home, Three Wise Monkeys.

Next time you cross paths with a human being who is homeless, will you write them off or see lots of potential just waiting to be served?