Andrew Clarke is taking a break from cheffing to focus on mental health campaign Pilot Light, along with co-founder Doug Sanham.
Clarke left St Leonards restaurant in London’s Shoreditch last year, where he was overseeing the kitchen operation. He originally launched the concept in April 2018 with chef Jackson Boxer, with whom he previously worked on Notting Hill’s Orasay and Vauxhall’s Brunswick House as chef-director.
However, Boxer ceased being involved in St Leonards last summer. Clarke sought to buy the restaurant from Vice Media but departed the restaurant in September. “It wasn’t the restaurant I wanted it to be,” he said.
He added that he and Boxer are “still mates, we were just pulling in different directions”.
Pilot Light is a campaign focused on changing the way people think and act about mental health through addressing the industry specific contexts and environments found in professional kitchens and the broader hospitality sector. Clarke and Sanham set up Pilot Light in 2017 to open up the conversation about mental health within the hospitality industry.
Clarke said he wanted to transform Pilot Light “from a part-time campaign to a full-time business”. Justin Coghlan, who helped launch the Movember charity, has become a shareholder to help advise on the project.
While Clarke is not ruling out opening another restaurant eventually, he said: “I’m going to take a year out and give Pilot Light everything it needs to just hit the ground running as a social good business.”
As well as running events to encourage people in hospitality to discuss mental health, over the next year Pilot Light also aims to develop online resources and offer monthly workshops on a subscription-based model which businesses can send their staff to, which would include mental health first aid training.
“We need to keep talking and sharing how to manage people better,” said Clarke. “Sustainable workplaces have to be a priority. Chefs are our most precious commodity at the moment.”
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