Mike Donovan is born and bred Bermondsey. He’s been successful in several lines of business and now runs Dun’s Deli on Market Square in The Blue. But he’s also a man on a mission! He’s keen to put something substantial back into his home patch and so has invested huge energy and time in the Bermondsey Community Kitchen, a training facility above the cafe.
Passion and Practice
‘It’s become a passion of mine, to give these youngsters a better start in life,” says Mike. “Too many are facing real hardship and have mostly failed at school. It takes a great deal of courage to knuckle down and learn a trade, getting to work on time, staying the course. If you’ve been long-term unemployed, perhaps got pregnant or started offending, then the challenge of taking on a qualification and working toward a permanent job can be overwhelming.” Mike is recruiting Southwark 16-24 yrs olds who’ve been long-term unemployed in cohorts of eight and using the brand-new training facilities to support them to achieve Level 2 City and Guilds in Professional Cookery over 10 months. The free courses run five days a week at three hours a day so that the trainees don’t have to give up their benefits whilst they train.
“…I want my students to be ambitious and to aim high from the start…Everyone should be stretched to reach their full potential and many of these kids have had no chance to excel before…”
Work and focus
“The project is different to the traditional highly pressured school environment. We offer smaller classes with more one-to-one work, fewer working hours, taking into account the students personal needs and providing them with the attention to ensure they succeed. I can be quite a disciplinarian and run a tight ship, so I expect the students and their parents to sign up to an agreement up front. They need to know that being clean and looking good, keeping to time and regular attendance are all work disciplines that the course will teach alongside the cookery. And I believe qualifications are only part of what’s needed to get a job. Along with the disciplines of work and having fun along the way, students will also get help with gaining practical work experience, boosting their confidence, building CVs, practicing interview skills and getting better at communication and wider life skills.”
“…the challenge of taking on a qualification and working toward a permanent job can be overwhelming…”
Mike’s been working at the project for years. He raised the money to equip the training kitchen with new or unused ranges and necessary kitchen goods from a grant from United St Saviour’s Charity. He’s made and renewed a wide range of contacts and so will be able to place students in local restaurants and pubs for work experience. He has plans to run a stall on Bermondsey Square selling the food made by the students but crucially also giving them experience of marketing and running the books. Mike sees food production as a great way to bring the community together so will be offering local residents advice and support, reaching out to local elderly people and running nutritional workshops for local schools in the Deli downstairs.
“…I can be quite a disciplinarian and run a tight ship, so I expect the students and their parents to sign up to an agreement up front…
Ambition and goals
“We’ll see 26 students qualify with a City and Guilds Diploma in the first ten months. Of these 24 will secure work experience placements, voluntary roles, going into further education or training or into employment. Their jobs will be varied but probably mostly be in the hospitality industry, in work such as waiting staff, kitchen staff and porters, counter service assistants, kitchen assistance or trainee chefs. I want my students to be ambitious and to aim high from the start. I hold up the examples of famous cooks who have started small and made it big such as Jamie Oliver and Delia Smith. Everyone should be stretched to reach their full potential and many of these kids have had no chance to excel before.”
Find out more at Bermondsey Community Kitchen