Schwartz September 2019

Industry Heroes

When the going gets tough, it’s nice to applaud those who are still trying to help others, and make the best out of the situation. Take Stock spoke to three industry heroes…

Mark Heirs is a personal chef for local and international clients. Based in Stirling, Scotland he setup a food delivery service for the local area and with the money raised donates essentials and food parcels to vulnerable people.

I was sat at Heathrow Airport the Thursday before lockdown waiting for my flight home and as I opened my laptop diary I could see my packed diary empty in minutes. I was suddenly a freeman until August and wondered whatI was going to do? I knew my anxiety levels wouldn’t allow me to just sit in the house and stare at the four walls, so I decided to put my skills to good use.

My parents own a catering company inStirling, so I borrowed one of their vans and filled it with essential ingredients like milk, bread, eggs, chicken etc. My idea was to sell it to local people, and, if the need was there, stretch to Glasgow and Edinburgh too. I’d then use the proceeds to donate essentials and food parcels to vulnerable people who didn’t have the money, or means, to buy them.

Most of the supermarkets were struggling to keep up with stocking essentials due to panic buying and I had the supplies, so it made perfect sense.

I did a video on my social media pages sharing my plans and by Sunday my Twitter account had had one million hits! I was making about 30 orders a day but when lockdown was imposed the next day it went insane, and by the end of Tuesday I’d had 1,400 requests! I had people from Birmingham and even as far as Texas in the USA offering to donate money. I was overwhelmed by the response so I set up a JustGiving page.

Luckily, I had my parents’ help – and supplies – so they drove a van too and soon enough we were supplying 100 households a day. After the first week I started making and selling pre-prepared meals too. I made comforting meals such as curry, beef stew, macaroni cheese – homemade meals like your granny would make!

My menu was also dependent on the availability from my suppliers. Gone were the days of halibut and aged beef, it was all mince, stewing steak and sausages,so my job was to make those ingredients into a quality meal that was easy to warm up in the oven or microwave. I don’t make any profit from what I’m doing. I take the cost price and add on a 10-20% margin, and the money from each sale goes towards the ready-meals and food parcels I donate. I work with the charity Barnardo’s, and the local councils, who make sure those who really need it get it.

I also post recipes to my social media pages so people at home can have ago at cooking. I’m thrilled when I get messages and comments from people -especially children. If one good thing can come out of all this is that more people,especially families, are cooking again at home from scratch. I just hope that enthusiasm and passion stays when life returns to normal.

Ryan Bolt is the executive chef for Moss & Co. in Suffolk. After his company took the decision to keep their doors closed for the time being, Ryan decided to use his skills to help people cook at home.

Our boss took the decision not to offer a takeaway service from the six pubs in our group so we are just waiting until we can open again. We salvaged the supplies we could and donated the rest to the local communities, schools and hospitals.

In the meantime, I decided to use my experience to help all those people who, like me, were stuck at home by posting simple recipes like banana cake and blueberry muffins on my Instagram and Facebook page which could easily be made from store cupboard ingredients.

I know cooking is a good stress release and can help take peoples’ minds off things. My partner is a nurse so it’s a constant worry, but helping to teach her children to cook and bake helps take us away from that worry just for a little while.

I was delighted by the response on my Facebook and Instagram pages. Not only were people sharing my posts but they were posting their end results too. It was a great feeling knowing that everyone was being interactive and pulling together during a very tough time.

Then, one of my suppliers, Accent Fresh,approached me. It had started delivering consumer veg boxes so wanted me to come up with a recipe to match the contents. I was thrilled!

The first recipe I made was cauliflower korma, bombay potatoes and onion bajias. I decided to do a live demo on Instagram to test the reaction. I was so nervous but delighted when 125 watched. Accent Fresh was impressed too, so now I’m supplying a recipe card which can be included in its veg boxes.

Working in a kitchen day-in, day-out can sometimes become mundane, so having this opportunity at home where I can be creative and push boundaries is a one-off. Obviously, I wouldn’t wish these circumstances on anyone, but while we are in it we all may as well try and gain something positive and valuable from it.

Mair Arthur is the owner of The White Cross Inn, a small pub with a huge heart set in the tiny village of Groeswen overlooking Caerphilly town. The pub is a lifeline to many members of the community so Mair knew keeping closed wasn’t an option.

The White Cross is the beating heart of the local community, and I’ve often said that the pub isn’t mine – I just keep it nice for everyone else!

The thought of closing after nearly 10 years of running it alone wasn’t one which I could contemplate, and I knew life without the pub would be harder to bear than Covid-19 for many of my regulars.

I checked I had an off-sale license before letting my customers know that I’d be open from 4-7pm every day. Because there is only me I offer a pick-up service and am very strict with the social distancing rules. My customers queue in one area of the pub, come to the bar one by one, then leave by a different door.

We are a big cask ales pub and don’t serve food, but I got in touch with a local milkman and baker and arranged for them to deliver fresh eggs, milk, butter, yogurts and bread to the pub. I knew buying essentials from me was an easier and safer option for many of my customers than them having to travel to a supermarket.

I got in touch with local breweries, who were happy to supply me. I have two pumps serving local beer and cider and so far it’s going really well. I have one regular who comes in everyday for his two pints, and in one week I sold five casks of ale!

My customers takeaway in one or two pint containers, or bring their own growler. I usually charge £3 a pint but now charge £2.50 or £5 for two – and my customers are more than happy with that. It’s working well and enabling me to pay some bills.

But it’s not about the money. Yes, a pub needs people, but people need a pub. My pub has become part of peoples’ lives and there would be a lot of people in the community who would be stuck, and lonely, if I didn’t open.

Feed Your Eyes

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