Doing the Job Right: Bob Barrett's Beef Kitchen Amazed the Judges at the New Statesman/ Edge Upstarts Awards for Social Enterprise

By McDonald, Alyssa | New Statesman (1996), June 30, 2008 | Go to article overview

Doing the Job Right: Bob Barrett's Beef Kitchen Amazed the Judges at the New Statesman/ Edge Upstarts Awards for Social Enterprise


McDonald, Alyssa, New Statesman (1996)


Coping with chemotherapy as well as getting over a period of homelessness would leave most people preoccupied with their own lives, but not Bob Barrett. The idea for the Beef Kitchen hit him in 2005 when he was recovering from cancer at the Sir Oswald Stoll Foundation, a charity that provides housing and support services for homeless ex-service personnel.

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The foundation is based near Chelsea football ground, and during Bob's recovery he had to take a lot of rest. As he lay in bed, he explained, "I'd watch out of the window and see people going off to the football. And suddenly a light went on in my head."

The result of that moment of inspiration was the Beef Kitchen, a mobile unit that serves a better standard of pre-match snack to Chelsea fans. But the Beef Kitchen also has a socially beneficial goal: it provides training and work experience for residents at the foundation.

Not only has Bob's mobile kitchen proved popular with trainees and fans--feeding 20,000 to date and selling out before every game--but it is also giving something back to the foundation, contributing to the leisure club as well as providing Sunday lunches for residents. It was this combination of a successful business model and a great social goal that impressed judges at this year's New Statesman/Edge Upstarts Awards, held on 18 June. The Beef Kitchen won the Edge StartUp prize, given in recognition of the social enterprise that shows the most impressive potential for growth.

Bob and the rest of the team have certainly done that. Last Saturday (21June) saw the launch of a second string to their bow, Pryor's Bank Cafe, near Putney Bridge in London. Like the Beef Kitchen, the Pryor's Bank Cafe will help foundation residents take the next steps towards rebuilding their lives: training and employment. Tim, the chef responsible for the Pryor's Bank menu, is also a foundation resident.

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Bob was enthusiastic as he described what the Beef Kitchen/Pryor's Bank team plans to offer the trainees. "Together with Training for Life, which has acted as a sort of training mentor, we'll provide our apprentices with a full training programme bringing them up to NVQ Level 2," Bob explains. "Our job isn't just to shake their hand after six or eight months' training; it's to find them full-time employment afterwards. …

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