Brigade - the social enterprise offering opportunity to young people in London

Outstanding food does more than just provide pleasure, it also creates new opportunities, new experiences and most of all, new connections

Right at the pulsing heart of London, beside one of its biggest tourist attractions – Borough Market – something really special is happening in the posh restaurant in the old fire station.

Chef Simon Boyle is a man with a vision – since 2004 he has worked tirelessly to help homeless people across London rebuild their lives, sharing his passion, skills and knowledge of cooking and food with them.

In 2011, backed by professional services firm PwC, and De Vere Venues, the UK's number one MICE provider, Beyond Food Foundation opened Brigade. This fascinating and successful social enterprise offers a bistro & bar, private dining, events and meeting spaces and a cookery school in central London.

The bistro provides job training and employment to catering and chef apprentices who have experienced homelessness. In addition, as a social enterprise, the restaurant invests a percentage of its profits into charities and other social enterprises such as Beyond Food Foundation.

Beyond Food Foundation runs two programmes; Freshlife andUnited Kitchen Apprenticeshipto help people who have experienced homelessness gain confidence, skills and employment. The programmes use food as a catalyst to build relationships, talk openly, support and challenge individuals through their personal development, and into employment. The holistic approach ensures that every one is fully supported, giving them the best chance at success.

The foundation works with homeless organisations in Boroughs all over London. By building strong relationships with these organisations they are able to ensure that the work is being accessed by those who really need it. Programmes are open to anybody, at any stage in their development. For some it may result in employment, for others it may be the first step they need to start moving their life forward.

Freshlife is a six week series of motivational, inspirational and interactive workshop based training sessions that reach out to people within their hostel environment. During Freshlife, participants experience live cookery demonstrations, a tour of Borough market, a day of college life, working within the kitchens at Brigade, as well as being a diner at Brigade. The final stage is a two week pre work placement in which they will learn skills, work as part of the team, and for those who wish, this can result in an interview for the United Kitchen apprenticeship.

The United Kitchen apprenticeship programme is an NVQ Level 2 Diploma in Professional Cookery, worked towards while employed as part of the kitchen team at Brigade Bar & Bistro. Apprentices receive both 1:1 and group mentoring, focusing on personal development and employability skills. The aim is that on completion of the apprenticeship, graduates are sufficiently skilled and equipped to seek full time employment.

Brigade bar and bistro is at the heart of a multi-million pound Social Enterprise business hub created by PwC, and supported by De Vere Venues, the UK Government Homes and Communities Agency, Beyond Food Foundation, Big Issue Invest, the School for Social Entrepreneurs, Social Enterprise UK and Blossoms Healthcare. For more information see:

The above article by Valere Tjolle first published on in Feb, 2016.