Rough sleepers and former offenders join forces with hospitality bosses to cook, serve and dine

Former rough sleepers, veterans and ex-prison offenders have today teamed up with hospitality leaders to produce and deliver the ultimate dining experience fundraising event for nearly 300 people in central London.

The Cook & Dine event was inspired by a pioneering charity helping vulnerable people forge careers in pubs, restaurants and hotels, and supported by high-profile chef Tom Kerridge, whose team ran the kitchen of volunteers.

Held to raise money and awareness for ONLY A PAVEMENT AWAY, it saw sector CEOs prep, cook and serve a special lunch alongside former rough sleepers and prison offenders, who have successfully rebuilt their lives working in the hospitality industry.

The brainchild of industry veteran Greg Mangham, the fledging Only A Pavement Away charity has already placed 65 candidates and partnered with more than 44 employer companies. Participants at the event included Greene King CEO Nick MacKenzie, Carluccio’s CEO Mark Jones and UK Hospitality chief Kate Nicholls.

Speaking at the event, which was held at Freemasons’ Hall in Covent Garden, Mangham said: “This event is all about raising awareness and money for Only A Pavement Away so that we can help more people to get back on their feet through a career in our thriving industry.

“The idea behind today was to showcase the fact that no matter your background, you can be part of a great team. And no matter who you are, in this industry we work together, we cook together and we dine together.”

Tom Kerridge, whose head chef Chris Mackett ran the kitchen at the event, said: “My team and I are absolutely delighted to be involved with Only A Pavement Away, and this unique event. It’s a great charity that’s giving vulnerable people an opportunity to find stability and build a career in an industry that I love, and am passionate about. Hospitality has given me so much and I’m really happy to be able to help this brilliant initiative.”

The event was attended by nearly 300 people and raised £20,000 for Only A Pavement Away.

Alongside partners Tom Kerridge and the United Grand Lodge of England, the event was also supported by Asahi, Greene King, Ashley McCarthy, Birchall, Caterer.com, Create, Dennys Brands, Hildon Water, Lush by TK, Paddy & Scott’s, Table Manners and The Black Arts Company.

About Only A Pavement Away

The charity acts as a gateway for vulnerable people in society to find stability through a career in hospitality. Members have typically encountered significant challenges in their lives, having experienced homelessness, spent time in prison or issues transitioning out of the armed forces.

Only A Pavement Away partners 26 charities, including Crisis and Shelter, acting as a connector to hospitality employers. The name stems from the fact that everyone in society is only a pavement away from homelessness, rough sleeping, crime, loneliness and destitution; and that anyone on the streets is only a pavement away from a bar, café, hotel or restaurant – and employment.

Mangham added: “Too many vulnerable people are falling through the systematic cracks in our society and this industry is making a difference. It’s absurd that so many people don’t have a roof over their heads or that ex-offenders often leave prison with just a few pounds in their pockets and nowhere to go. Often, people just need a helping hand and a chance.

“The hospitality is answering the challenge, recognising the opportunity we have to make a difference and to offer people stability, whilst at the same time showcasing our industry as a brilliant place to work and build a career. Hospitality is the only one offering this opportunity.

“We want to raise as much money as possible so we can recruit more members, help people out of these situations and give them a better future with careers in our special industry.”