Shaper: Simon Boyle

Show aired on 27th June 2015

Transcript

Elliot Moss
That was Sweet Thing from Van Morrison, a lovely thoughtful start to the programme. Good morning this is Jazz FM and this is Jazz Shapers and I am Elliot Moss. Thank you very much for joining me. Jazz Shapers is the place where you can hear the very best of the people shaping the world of jazz, blues and soul alongside their equivalents in the world of business; a Business Shaper. My Business Shaper today is unusual, they all are but this one is particularly unusual, they all are but this one is particularly unusual because he is Mr Simon Boyle and he is the founder of the Brigade which is a social enterprise restaurant and he has done more than just that he has created a charity around it, he brings in homeless people, he does all sorts of things which are extraordinary. You are going to be hearing a lot from Simon and all the fantastic achievements that he has already done so far. Lots coming up from him. In addition to hearing from him you will also be hearing from our programme partners at Mischon De Reya some words of advice for your business and on top of all of that of course, some great music from the shapers of jazz, blues and soul, including Marvin Gaye, Joni Mitchell and this from Bill Withers.

That was Bill Withers with the beautiful Lean On Me. My Business Shaper today here on Jazz Shapers is Simon Boyle; he is a chef, he is a social entrepreneur, he’s created a social enterprise called Brigade, they are over in Tooley Street and he has also created a charity called Beyond Food and without further ado I want to introduce him. Thank you very much for joining me Simon.

Simon Boyle
Hi Elliot, how are you doing?

Elliott Moss
Okay, nice to see you. Now let’s… you have so many stories to tell, tell me a little bit about yourself before this world that you entered into and I do want to come to it quite quickly. Where… I believe you worked for Unilever, you’ve done interesting things, a little bit about you before you became a chef?

Simon Boyle
Well very lucky in my life because I have a fantastic family, always wanted to be a chef so from the age of about ten years old I cooked quite seriously, read an article about the Savoy Hotel when I was thirteen, used to watch the Food and Drink programme, I don’t know you I remember that years ago and there was a guy called Anton Mosimann, totally captivated me and I started to work at the Savoy when I was sixteen and eventually worked for Anton quite a few years later when I was in my twenties.

Elliot Moss
And then explain the Unilever piece as well?

Simon Boyle
Well Unilever, it’s funny, I had finished at Mosimann’s actually and I was running part of his business and wanted to find the next thing and prior to me starting my own business and that’s what I really always wanted to do and Unilever came up and it started off leading their innovation team and looking at product development. No experience in that whatsoever but that’s what they were looking for so a very innovative kind of thinker and I created a new way of thinking in Unilever which was called Gold Standard Bench Marking which is about absolutely looking at the best benchmarks for all their products with, and not just from the food sense but the kind of cultural sense of what it is trying to achieve. These are the days when Unilever was trying to you know, abolish scratch cooking and get everybody using all their products you know, and I was totally against that so managed to completely overturn what they were trying to do which was great and then a couple of things happened to me, one of them was the Tsunami in 2004 and I wasn’t there but I was watching it on TV and decided to take some time off and go and do something hands on and Unilever were happy for me to do that. And when I came back I kind of didn’t want to work for Unilever anymore and they kind of said ‘look we’ll help you find what it is you want but we want you to do something else for us’ and I eventually became their culinary ambassador. So part remit was to the board you know, just kind of big soap box just shouting out what I wanted to do and the way I saw the world of food and the way I saw them so maybe going down in the wrong directions and trying to steer that through my personal view and since then that has been the way that I have run my life, my business, you know, really hopefully with integrity, passion and really just fighting for what is right.

Elliot Moss
And now post that I believe you set up an event catering business with your then wife.

Simon Boyle
Yes.

Elliot Moss
Called Beyond Boyle. There with the business until 2009/2010 and then enter and give me the quick beginning of the story around the Beyond Food Foundation and then moving into the Brigade. Just explain a little bit about what happened then?

Simon Boyle
Yeah well I have to say even though this is a business show, I wasn’t the best businessman in the world because I used to confuse…

Elliot Moss
It’s out there… Simon Boyle has admitted it.

Simon Boyle
…I used to get confused with my social impact return if you want, social return versus the financial return. Always, you know, I always wanted to make money but these things used to get confused and that was very confusing to my customers as well because in one hand I was this amazing, you know, good chef, trying to do the right thing via homeless people but they were wanting to know if this chef can cook and you know, are we going to… if we turn up to do a dinner for six hundred people, are the carrots going to be shaped all in the same way. It was quite interesting and so I decided that I needed to get investment and get kind of more an intellectual kind of investment so I went on to Dragons Den and I was actually on the show 2008, September 2008 and I didn’t get any money before you ask but I got a lot of love for what I did and because I had a social enterprise idea at the time they didn’t want to touch it with a barge pole. They believed at the time that you should keep your business over here and your charity, your charitable work over there and you do not mix them. We were in there for an hour and twenty minutes debating the whole thing. What happened afterwards I got a lot of help from them so… and they got me to understand that at the time the business wasn’t ready for social enterprise so maybe I should create a charity and then have a business and have some clear communication around what they both do and that’s what I did. And that’s how the Beyond Food Foundation started. So you know we had training support for homeless people over here getting into employment and then we had the business over there. Very clear and actually they work really well together.

Elliot Moss
And you are going to hear much more about how those two worlds have intertwined since. Stay with me for more from my Business Shaper, Simon Boyle. In the meantime though, time for some music, this is Yemen from Omer Klein, it’s new, he’s Israeli and he’s a pianist as well.

That was Yemen from Omer Klein and interesting music it was too. Simon Boyle is my Business Shaper and he is the founder of Beyond Food and the founder of the Brigade that is a social enterprise, they are a restaurant now and they encourage and indeed put homeless people back into employment and they do all sorts of other things as well. If you were listening earlier which I hope you were, you would have heard Simon’s rather interesting and varied history post being a food ambassador, culinary ambassador for Unilever and before that he was a chef at the Savoy under the famous Anton Mosimann – all sorts of things has led him to a very valued, focussed approach on life. So I just want to go back again Simon into the fact that you said you know, post Dragons Den in 2008, they said focus, make sure it is clear what you are actually standing for, set up the charity. You did all that and I then believe the actual restaurant opened in 2011. Is that correct?

Simon Boyle
That’s right yeah.

Elliot Moss
Okay so first day of opening your new restaurant. Who is working behind the scenes?

Simon Boyle
Well in the early days it was my wife and I and where it was we were not struggling as a business but really trying to understand well you know, to run a business you need, you need plenty of people okay, you need lots of people that know what they are doing and as a chef, you know I am a good cook. You end up as a small businessman you are marketing yourselves, you are you know, doing the payroll, you are doing all these things and then you are trying to shape a vision and actually it’s quite a large business so that going into that was you know, was quite an ordeal. So what we ended up doing is, or I started to work on the idea of working in partnerships so trying to find people that wanted to work with me, firstly as a chef. Secondly trying to get behind my social values and then sort of you know, try to sort of lead a new way of working. The Fire Station which is where the Brigade is, right behind…

Elliot Moss
In Tooley Street in London?

Simon Boyle
…in Tooley Street. It’s on a more on the London development site.

Elliot Moss
Yeah.

Simon Boyle
So PWC were building their largest kind of London office and at the time I had heard that they were wanting to do something with this old derelict Fire Station in front of their building. They didn’t want McDonalds in there or whoever and so you know, after Dragons Den I had entered a competition called the Spark Challenge which was kind of like a social entrepreneurs Dragons Den if you like and I won that and I met someone at PWC and to cut a long story short you know the two worlds came together. I also got some funding from the old Labour Government just before the general election and you know, we went into partnership together. It is an extraordinary thing so to think of well let’s work in partnerships and let’s go to one of the largest accountancy firms in the world but they have this real depth of integrity around them about what they want to do and the way that they want to shape social enterprise and so it was a perfect partnership and we also bought in Devere Venues, which is a hospitality management company and a venue company and together the foundation and PWC and Devere we now really work cohesively to try to sort of shape kind of the Brigade to be a flagship for social enterprise in the future.

Elliot Moss
And this notion of partnership, I mean you have taken it to another level, fantastic stuff. Is it still, a few years down the line, is it working just how you thought it would or is the nature of it that it evolves and it changes and then you have to adapt?

Simon Boyle
Yeah I mean partnerships mean you have to work together and you know, that means sometimes you, you know, you’ve got to work harder at working together. That’s, you know, it is like a marriage relationship, anything you’ve got to work at it. Hospitality is hard you know, PWC would not be going into the hospitality market, you know they are not a restaurateurs, that’s why we bought in Devere and also I wanted to, you know, to slightly stand away and do what I do well, yes cook but also you know, be the kind of ambassador for the whole project. But I think Brigade is now coming into its own, it’s a very busy restaurant, it’s making money, that money is then… also employs all of our apprentices and I should discuss how we, how we go about finding those and it is now having a massive effect and we have now got our first social impact report so we know that we are having the effect that we wanted to have and we are saving society, if you want to call it that in the greater scheme of things, a lot of money and making people with you know, families and friends, people all around them, giving them a future which is something that they don’t have. I mean, did you know that homelessness is growing? If you think of all the categories of various different things that happen in the world, you know, a lot of them are in decline but homelessness is on the increase and they reckon more than, I think it is one in ten people nowadays say that at some point in their life they have experienced homelessness and a fifth of those are in the last five years. So you know, this is something we have to do something about.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me for more and find out how Simon has indeed been doing something about the issue of homelessness and also generating very important impact in this social enterprise space. Latest travel in a couple of minutes and before that, some words of wisdom from our programme partners at Mishcon De Reya for your business.

You are listening to Jazz Shapers with me, Elliot Moss every Saturday from 9.00 to 10.00 here on Jazz FM, a chance to look inside a person that is shaping the world of business and the chance to listen to some great shapers from the world of jazz, blues and soul. If you have missed any of the programmes, iTunes is your destination. Put in the words ‘jazz’ and ‘shapers’, you will find us there; or CityAM.com if you are on a computer or near one and that’s most of you I imagine. My Business Shaper today is Simon Boyle, he is the founder of Beyond Food, he’s the founder of the Brigade, it’s a social enterprise, it’s a charity and it helps put homeless people into work and it also serves up some rather yummy dishes. Simon, give us a flavour actually of the menu? I’d like to know, I haven’t been and I am going to go post-meeting you. What can I eat?

Simon Boyle
Well it is a British Bistro but it is the whole sense of Brigade is about craftsmanship so we are needing to… it’s a training restaurant obviously so as you walk in I have designed the kitchen so it is very open plan, you can literally sit around the kitchen and actually talk to the chefs. We do that to try and break down the walls, the barriers for our apprentices and so that they have got the confidence to be able to talk to people, they can get out into the restaurant, they can deliver dishes but it is a British Bistro so I really take the best of sort of British food and produce, always local, always seasonal so we buy our fruit and vegetables down in Borough Market which is a three or four minute walk so that’s the kind of the spirit of the whole place. But we make all of our own breads all the way through to the soup stock, sauces, ice cream, sorbets at the end of the meal.

Elliot Moss
Sold to the man in white. I’m coming. Now you said earlier in a kind of self-effacing way, ‘I am not really a very good businessman Elliot’. Obviously at the root of finding great partners is that you get the expertise from other people. What are the big things you have learnt from those people who are more involved in the business of delivering food every day in the restaurant world?

Simon Boyle
Well I mean at the end of the day you’ve got to keep your costs down and you’ve got to maximise your avenues. You know that is it but you have got to look after people and you’ve got to have a good product and there is no point in me as a social entrepreneur hiding behind the idea that we are helping homeless people. If actually we are not serving people well, we are not giving them great food that’s got integrity and is cooked you know and it tastes great so really and allowing people, the partners to do what they do well. So if that is you know, from the side of PWC trying to help us run that business and make sure it is profitable, working with Devere who really understand you know, the hospitality market, you know we need to listen to them and we work together to be honest and we have all got opinions on everything. I am a chef so I know everything obviously.

Elliot Moss
Obviously.

Simon Boyle
And I say I am not very good at business you know, actually when you… after running a business, a small business actually you know more than you thought you did you know so these days you know, as we have an operating company and we sit there and we all work together on it.

Elliot Moss
Good, that’s good stuff and you’ve learnt some good lessons. It’s time for some more music right now, we are going to be coming back to Simon very shortly but this is a classic from Marvin Gaye, it’s Abraham, Martin and John.

That was Marvin Gaye with Abraham, Martin and John. Nice to hear him on Jazz Shapers. Simon Boyle is my Business Shaper today; he is the founder of Beyond Food and the founder of the Brigade and the Brigade as you were hearing is a British Bistro which makes gorgeous food, open plan, you can talk to the chefs and he is also working very closely with big partners like Devere and PWC and you were saying Simon just earlier, you obviously knew more than you let on because once you do run a small business and you’ve done that there are things that you just kind of pick up and as you said, the big picture being maximising your top line and minimising your bottom line. In terms of all the people you’ve taken out of homelessness and put through… how many have there been since you opened the restaurant?

Simon Boyle
Well let me take a step back from that and actually tell you how we do it. So we have… it’s a very small charity actually, we always need help but we run it like a business. I mean it is you know, charities these days do not just get handouts in the way that they used to. But basically we are run by our frustration that people remain homeless and so looking at that and taking that as our kind of our lead we work with the Job Centre and also probably about eighty homeless hostels in London, we run a programme called Fresh Life which really tries to aim for people to empower them and then reclaim their lives back. It is a six week process, it spans over eight weeks and we use food as a catalyst to really inspire and motivate them to be able to get to the point where they stand on their own two feet. After Fresh Life they have kind of got one of three directions. Either they need further support and Fresh Life really brings that to the surface and we can help direct them, signpost them to the right support. They are engaged with what we have done and they are inspired but they have one, nothing to do with hospitality and you know, it’s a hard business to be in. But they are engaged and we want to help them so we then help them find what it is that they would like to do and then there is a slightly smaller group that then want to go into hospitality and they are driven by the passion that Brigade is giving them and the Foundation. That’s a thirteen month accredited course. Now we have worked with nearly eight hundred homeless people in three and a half, coming up to four years and seventy six of those we have employed full-time at Brigade.

Elliot Moss
Wow.

Simon Boyle
So really having some impact.

Elliot Moss
Amazing impact. Let me just ask you this though and I interviewed John Bird on this programme, the founder of the Big Issue and just having had some experience of dealing with charities and the homeless world, one of the hardest things is that first step of moving away from the street, away from whether it is drug abuse or alcohol abuse, whatever it might be, away from the hostel and actually turning up on the first day. How do you get people from that state, that place, into that first thing because I imagine that is the hardest step to take.

Simon Boyle
Yeah.

Elliot Moss
Is that right?

Simon Boyle
Yeah yeah. I have a very good friend in Manco, a guy called Matt Potts, a brilliant jazz musician and has developed his whole professional life into this idea and he won’t mind me telling you this. And he thinks he is about two things. The first one is about purpose. So if you give people purpose in life then they have got something to get up for and homeless people they lose that purpose and there is a million reasons why it might happen. The second thing is about relationships and being able to kind of maintain your relationships and in most cases with homeless people they have destroyed those relationships so there is no one to help them when you need it and the reason why you and I don’t become homeless is because we have got people around us and if the chips are down, those people will help us. If you think of a homeless person is not in that situation and they are the two things and I think the Beyond Food Foundation, what it really does is it adds that support and we have a way of, we don’t have any constraints and a lot of charities in you know, up to twenty five year olds where you will have no constraints, if people have got addictions we will take them in and you know, they will develop as they can and some people may drop out and we will support them until they can you know, re-join us but we won’t let anyone go and I think that is quite unique in this market.

Elliot Moss
It is unique and indeed those two points; purpose and relationships are absolutely, they seem to be absolutely spot on. Final chat coming up with Simon today plus we will play a track from Joni Mitchell, that’s after the latest traffic and travel here on Jazz FM.

That was Joni Mitchell with The Dry Cleaner From Des Moine and Des Moine if you didn’t know is in Iowa. I just found that out and it is from an album that she produced with Charlie Mingus. You are listening to Simon Boyle, he is my Business Shaper today and just for a few more precious minutes you are going to hear about the man behind Beyond Food and behind the Brigade. If you were listening earlier you would have heard the fantastic stories that he has talked about in terms of getting people off the street, getting them into employment and doing all these wonderful things to actually give people a proper leg up and a meaningful and substantive one. As you look forward Simon to the next few years with the Brigade as you said, about eight hundred people have gone through the various schemes whether it’s Fresh Life or the kitchen apprenticeship and so on. What’s going to change? Or is it just going to be more of the same? You are going to be banging that drum or are you learning as you go that there are different and better ways to do things to get more and more people off the street and into employment?

Simon Boyle
Yeah I mean you would hope that homelessness is declining.

Elliot Moss
But you said it wasn’t.

Simon Boyle
But it is not and you know, with the government, the conservatives getting back in for right or wrong it is going to be tougher for people so that is only going to cause homelessness to increase. So Beyond Food, it’s a tiny charity but we’ve got to evolve and actually we’ve kind of got to the point where we you know, Brigade is, it’s coping with the numbers that we help with so definitely starting to think about well what do we do, you know, do we expand Brigade. Well we’d love to do that you know and the business has got to be strong and be able to do that. But looking at our training support packages you know, should we be you know franchising them out, giving to them you know, trying to expand with other partners, that’s something that we are definitely looking at. You know, it’s going from strength to strength so we would definitely keep looking at the options and we are doing that now.

Elliot Moss
Talking of impacts and different things and it’s part of your own journey. You’ve written a book, a recipe book called Recipes for Life which is I think designed for people following cancer treatment. You lost your own wife in 2013, Annette. How has that shifted your view of everything that you do now going forward?

Simon Boyle
Good question. So I have kind of gone through you know, running your own small business, which is you know you have to put one hundred percent, you can’t give anything less than a hundred percent and yeah I think looking back at things I wish maybe I hadn’t have given it and given a bit more to my private life and that’s just because you know, when you lose someone just you know, you sit there and think ‘what could have been different?’ But it has made me now look at the future and I absolutely want to grab hold of it with both hands. It took me a couple of years to kind of just come through the fog of the whole situation and you know, not really understanding where I wanted to go, and particularly as a chef actually because as a social entrepreneur that keeps going but as a chef like you know, I’ve kind of, I get excited about food, I love food and I love pleasing people with my food as much as everything else so coming through that fog I am now in a relationship with a lovely girlfriend called Tracy, we have both of us got loads of children so there is just lots of energy around me and now it’s about you know, just taking life with two hands and I can tell you you know, it can go very quickly. We none of us are that far away from homelessness and certainly none of us are away from where there is you know, illness or injury or whatever so you have got to make the most out of life and I think with that approach everyone around me hopefully gets captured by that energy and that’s why you know hopefully we’ve got some some bright future.

Elliot Moss
I am sure you have. Listen thank you so much for being so open with me and sharing all of that. Good luck with everything. Just before I let you go though, you are not getting off that lightly. What’s your song choice and why have you chosen it?

Simon Boyle
Oh I have chosen a song called Undecided by Ray Charles and it is one of those songs where its full of energy and if I’m, if my creative juices are lacking or I just need a little bit of oomph then I will put this on and I am raring to go and the ideas are flowing.

Elliot Moss
Simon Boyle thank you very much. Here it is, its Undecided from Ray Charles.

That was Undecided from Ray Charles, the song choice of my Business Shaper today, Simon Boyle. Values driven to the core. Someone who wants to make an impact in a social and positive way. Not afraid to take on the big issue, homelessness one of the biggest issues in the country is at the core of the mission statement of what they are doing and personal courage to have come through all the things he has come through and to continue to go and be so positive, it’s fantastic. Do join me again, same time, same place for another edition of Jazz Shapers, that’s next Saturday morning at 9.00 o’clock here on Jazz FM. In the meantime though, stay with us because coming up next it’s Nigel Williams.

Simon Boyle is the vision behind Brigade, a unique social enterprise restaurant. Formed from a partnership across the private, public and third sector, Brigade opened in September 2011 and was awarded an AA rosette within three months. Since its launch the restaurant has been the home of Simon’s charity; Beyond Food, which works to motivate and inspire people who have experienced homelessness to gain meaningful employment.

Having started as an apprentice chef aged 16 at The Savoy, Simon has led a highly respectable career since, working for Saudi Princes, taking Head Chef roles on 5* cruise ships, becoming the first ever Culinary Ambassador for the global giant, Unilever and running his own private catering and events business. It was in 2004 however, when Simon returned from Sri Lanka where he volunteered as part of the post tsunami relief team assisting a small community to rebuild their lives, that Simon found his passion and commitment to help and support those less fortunate than himself. Since 2004, Simon has worked tirelessly to help homeless people across London to rebuild their lives, using food as a catalyst, imparting his passion, skills and knowledge of cooking and food on to them and encouraging them to move their lives forward. Following six years of relentless hard work, Simon was able to take his vision to the next level. Forging relationships with PwC, De Vere Venues and the Homes and Communities Agency, Simon secured a grant of £800k to invest into a restaurant that would change the lives of hundreds of homeless people across London.

Beyond Food, runs two programmes; Freshlife and United Kitchen. Freshlife is a six-week series of motivational workshops that promote wellbeing, passion for food and meaningful employment. United Kitchen Apprenticeship is a fully certified apprenticeship programme where apprentices study towards an NVQ Level 2 Diploma in Professional Cookery as well as receiving on the job training in the kitchens at Brigade in addition to personal mentoring and employability coaching.

Follow Simon on Twitter @chefsimonboyle

Listen live at 9am Saturday.

“I run my life, my business, hopefully with integrity, passion and just fighting for what is right.”

“I wasn’t the best businessman in the world because I used to confuse my social impact return with the financial return.”

“We have worked with nearly eight hundred homeless people in less than four years.”

“I went on Dragons Den…I didn’t get any money, but I got a lot of love for what I did.”

“Homelessness is on the increase – they reckon more than one in ten people nowadays say at some point in their life they have experienced homelessness.”

“You’ve got to have a good product, there is no point in me as a social entrepreneur hiding behind the idea that we are helping homeless people.”

“If you give people purpose in life then they have got something to get up for.”

“The reason why you and I don’t become homeless is because we have got people around us and if the chips are down, those people will help us.”

“When you lose someone, you sit there and think ‘what could have been different?’ But it has made me look at the future and I absolutely want to grab it with both hands.”

“I get excited about everything; I love food and I love pleasing people with my food.”