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Chef by Day, Volunteer by night

Joshua is a chef by trade but he is now also a volunteer chef with the FoodCycle Manchester team. We wanted to know why he signed up as a volunteer, how he gets to use his cooking skills and how it is different in a FoodCycle kitchen. 

Where did you hear about FoodCycle and why did you decide to get involved?

I heard about FoodCycle via Do-It.org. At my day job I was asked to help run a program involving employees of the company doing a day of volunteer work, for which they would be payed. It was my job to research volunteer opportunities and help other co-workers decide what to they would like to do for their volunteering session. I found Do-It.org immediately and tried it myself to get to grips with how it worked, FoodCycle was one of the suggestions and it appealed to me because of the nature of the organisation. I love cooking and I love for other people more especially so and it seemed like such a positive way to do something I love doing anyway. I expressed my interest and they got back to me and I joined up.

As you work as a busy chef for your day job, what was it like to use your skills as a volunteer?

To be honest, the work I do as a chef in my day job involves putting pre-prepared frozen food in an oven, it’s not the most satisfying work which is why I’m glad for opportunities such as Foodcycle which allow me to spread my wings a bit more.  What my day job has taught me is how to work as a team in a kitchen, I’ve always been someone who likes the kitchen to themselves when they’re cooking until I started my current job. The restaurant I work in can also become extremely busy at the drop of a hat so it has taught me how to work under a lot of pressure whilst keeping up the attention to detail in terms of timing and food hygiene.

What skills were you able to bring to the kitchen?

Nothing that wasn’t already there, the passion, the standards, the wherewithal to come in to a mountain of food and just come up with something off the top of your head that could use all of it. I think I brought that but everyone else I’ve worked with at The Roby does too, it’s an amazing group of people.

Did you learn anything new, and if so, what?

In my day job, each team member has one specific role they have to stick to, one chefs, one preps the food for cooking on that day and some for the next day, one preps the cold meals and desserts. Whilst it’s essential we work together in order for the kitchen to run smoothly, there is still a disconnect because we’re all doing different things. With FoodCycle you’re all working together on the same 3 courses, in a much smaller space, it creates a much more tangible sense of teamwork in comparison to my day job. FoodCycle really enhanced my communication skills in the kitchen, despite the fact I’m super awkward all the time. The way FoodCycle works also encourages you to be creative in the kitchen, it’s a real confidence booster when you’ve all come up with something off the top of your head, made it together and it goes down really well, it really makes you want to cook and experiment more in general.

How did you find it cooking with food surplus?

It feels great, knowing how much waste we sometimes generate at my place of work can be really sad, to use all this surplus feels like I’m redressing the balance just a little bit. I’m also excited to be using fresh ingredients to cook for a bunch of people and the fact that you have no idea what you’re going to get till you arrive on the night only adds to that.

What would you say to other chefs thinking of getting involved?

I’d say it’s the atmosphere of working in a small teams, improvising as you go and the fact the ingredients are surplus that makes it something special to do. You’re experience and your knowledge will be appreciated and helpful and you’ll be working with some other great and talented people for sure.

Want to get stuck in at your local FoodCycle? Sign up here.

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