Lessons in people management from a Chef/social entrepreneur

Recently I had the good fortune to hear a talk by Simon Boyle, Chef/Founder at Brigade and Founder of the Beyond Food Foundation (BFF). Hearing how he takes on long-term unemployed homeless people, gets them ready to work, learning on apprenticeships and into employment was really inspiring stuff.

Simon appeared on BBC’s Dragon’s Den, which he said was quite a learning experience – I bet. Yet from what Simon had to say, I got the impression the people on BFF’s Freshlife programme can present more of a challenge than all the Dragons put together.

If you think you’ve got problems getting people motivated and contributing their best effort, consider if you’ve ever had to point out to them that they need to take a shower before coming to work. OK, one or two of you may have – but to an ex-offender? Some of Simon’s protégés would present a challenge to the most experienced managers.


So how does he get the best from them?

First of all, there’s an underlying belief that it is possible for people with a long history of unemployment and homelessness (sometimes with a criminal and prison record) to turn their lives around, learn skills and be valuable workers. That’s quite a leap of faith in my humble opinion – but with over 420 Freshlife participants so far, some of whom now work at prestige venues such as The Savoy and Gidleigh Park, the evidence backs Simon up.

If people can climb that far, how far might your team members go? Aim high.

Second, participants work to short-term goals. Freshlife is a series of inspirational workshops over 6 weeks that promote well-being, a passion for food and appreciation of meaningful employment. Simon told us that Freshlife participants can be well on the way to turning their lives round in this time. From there BFF’s United Kitchen Apprenticeship is a fully certified chef apprenticeship programme.

What short-term goals can you support your team to achieve?


Third, successes are celebrated. You can find plenty of them on Beyond Food’s website No, not everyone sails through the programme to successful full-time employment, but a significant number do.

How can you celebrate a success in your team?


Comments are closed.