Paul Gayler is the executive chef at London's Lanesborough hotel who is setting up a series of events this month at catering colleges throughout the UK to raise money for the Teenage Cancer Trust charity. He spoke to Kerstin Kühn about the project
What inspired you to start the project?
Around 18 months ago a close family friend's daughter, Emily, died of myeloid leukaemia, a very rare type of cancer. A few months later my daughter was made May Queen at her college and put in charge of raising funds. She decided to create the Remembering Emily fund to raise money for the Teenage Cancer Trust. The charity is planning to set up a specialist unit at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridgeshire to support youngsters with cancer, and needed around £2m to fund this. As a father, I think this is a great project, and I wanted to help my daughter raise funds.
How did you get started?
I set up the Chefs United team with my fellow executive chef friends Andrew Bennett [Sheraton Park Lane], Henry Brosi [the Dorchester] and Simon Young [Jumeirah Carlton Tower] and we organised a dinner at the Sheraton hotel, where we got 34 chefs to each host a table. We managed to raise £63,000 during the dinner, which was a real success.
Why did you get catering colleges involved?
After that event was so successful I wanted to raise even more money, and I came up with the idea of getting colleges involved. Most of the kids the Teenage Cancer Trust looks after are of a similar age to the students at our catering colleges, so it made sense to get them involved.
How many events are happening, and where?
There will be 25 events at colleges across the UK, including Thurrock College, Ayr College, Plymouth College, Cambridge College and Richmond College. We got a whole host of chefs involved, including the Chefs United team, as well as Cyrus Todiwala, Bryn Williams, Paul Bates, Colin Bussey and Allister Bishop.
What do the events comprise?
One of the chefs will get in touch with a college, and together they organise a dinner event at which the chef will cook together with the students. The college sells the tickets, and there is usually a raffle that takes place, and all the funds raised go to the Remembering Emily fund. It has worked really well, because everyone has something to gain from the event: the students get to cook with a well-known chef the college gets to put on a great event and the locals get to eat fantastic food.
How much do you hope to raise?
So far we have raised £180,000, but I'm hoping to raise closer to £300,000. It has been a fantastic project, and I have been so touched by the commitment and support of all of the chefs involved.