Yesterday TM, from City Harvest, had the pleasure of chatting to Paul Freestone, the Head Chef at Abel & Cole and found out about his experience of donating to City Harvest London. Here's what she learned....
Paul began his career as a chef at the early age of 16 in his home town of Leicester, attending college before working for many different restaurants around the country. Paul observed that some restaurants did not use the most ethical practices when it came to quality of food, so a move to Abel & Cole eight years ago satisfied his need to work somewhere that supported an ethical and sustainable way of living.
Paul cooks lunch for around one hundred members of staff, Monday to Friday. He is given a budget to spend on extra's to enhance his meals but the majority of the food he uses is given to him from the Abel & Cole stock that is not sold. He is told a few days before what he will be getting and then plans his meals around the fruit and vegetable that he is sent. Whatever he has as surplus that he cannot use himself, he donates to City Harvest.
'When I get my delivery to cook with, sometimes there'll be a few tomatoes past they're peak in there, I love those little soft ones, it's because of them that I get access to all the other ones'.
The surplus fruit and vegetables that are given to City Harvest from the Abel & Cole lunch club are quickly dispatched to some of the many charities that City Harvest deliver too. The food will help nourish people who are vulnerable and whose lives are enhanced by the fresh fruit and vegetables that they may otherwise have little access too.
Whilst I was there, Paul had cooked up a carrot soup with coriander two ways which was amazingly fresh and a fantastic creamy potato and spinach soup with chunks of whole meal bread and butter. Lots of members of staff were tucking into the soups and enjoying lunch together in the communal dining area. When I asked Paul what he would do with the left over soup, he told me that lots of the staff have little cans that they come down and fill to take home, whatever else is left and can't be eaten is turned into biofuel so nothing at all is wasted.
Paul feels lucky that Abel & Cole support him in his endeavors to support City Harvest and appreciates that not all employers would do the same.
Paul recounts a previous job where he had to prepare food for a set number of diners but they would generally over-estimate the amount of food needed. The employer would then make the staff throw away whatever food was left which did not sit well with Paul who felt it was an utter waste and wrong.
I asked Paul how he began donating food to City Harvest. He told me that he used to donate the surplus food to a local charity but they were unreliable about picking the food up and picky about what they would take. As a busy chef Paul needed someone who was reliable and would take whatever he had to give. Another member of staff mentioned City Harvest, Paul gave us a ring and we have been collecting surplus food from the lunch club ever since. Paul told me- 'I would definitely recommend anyone who has surplus food to donate to City Harvest, it's got to work for both parties and with City Harvest it works well'.
I asked Paul if he had any tips for people to help reduce food waste in their homes. His advice was- 'Buy less, shop more frequently so you only buy what you need, don't go for buy one get one free deals that you might not use. If you only buy what you need, you will have more money to buy better quality. Instead of buying a big pack of industrially produced chicken, buy a small quality chicken'. 'Think before you buy'.
The partnership between Abel & Cole and City Harvest is of benefit to both parties by helping Abel & Cole maintain their amazing efforts at not wasting any of their food and for City Harvest the opportunity to deliver the surplus food to the charities and community groups we support.
Thanks Paul, you are a true City Harvest hero. Thousands of nourishing meals have been served around London thanks to your commitment and generosity.
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