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Simon Boyle's career has seen him transition from being a young man handpicked for the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts' (RACA) Specialised Chefs Scholarship at Bournemouth and Poole College to becoming an award-winning chef, author, entrepreneur and founder of a social enterprise restaurant and community interest company which has used food as a stimulus for social change.
Motivated by a deep frustration that people not only become homeless, but stay homeless, Boyle has made it his mission over the past eight years to help adults break the cycle of poverty by giving them the training, skills and support they need to move into meaningful employment.
Beyond Food receives around 100 referrals every six months from London's homelessness organisations and it has supported more than 1,000 people through its training programmes.
When Boyle embarked on his own training at the age of 16, it was clear he was meant for great things. Thanks to the Specialised Chefs Scholarship, he worked at establishments including the London's Savoy and Chewton Glen in New Milton, Hampshire, and went on to become a chef on high-profile cruise ships. Buying food from local markets, he developed a passion for local, sustainable produce.
On returning to dry land, he took on a role as manager at Mosimann's before becoming Unilever's first culinary ambassador in 2002, which ignited his enthusiasm for using food for social change. After volunteering in Sri Lanka during the aftermath of the devastating 2004 tsunami, he began working on his own project to create a charity that would use food to turn around people's lives.
He pitched for funding on BBC Two's Dragons' Den in 2008, but was unsuccessful. Ever determined, in 2010 Boyle spearheaded a project to launch a new restaurant and training concept, and Brigade, on the former site of Tooley Street's fire station in Borough, opened in 2011.
Brigade and Beyond Food have since helped countless vulnerable people, some of whom were sleeping rough when they joined the programme. Most were living in hostels and a large number were ex-offenders. Brigade has recently launched the Social Diner, "a supper club with a difference", where high-profile chefs such as Michel Roux Jr and Nigel Haworth cook alongside the restaurant's apprentices. Forthcoming events will see 2017 Hotel Cateys Chef of the Year Chris King of the Langham London and Pig group chef director James Golding take to the hotplate.
Sara Jayne Stanes, chief executive of the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts, said: "Simon always stood out as the spokesman for the original group that started our 'guinea pig' programme at Bournemouth back in 1989. He was a born leader and, apart from excelling at his craft, he had a very generous spirit, so we were not surprised that he committed himself to charitable work that is benefiting the industry he so evidently loves.
"On top of that, he is also a passionate supporter of Chefs Adopt A School. We have always been proud of him at the RACA and this award couldn't be more deserved."
2017 Alison Gilbert, CH&Co Group
2016 Neil Porter, BAM Facilities Management
2015 Neel Radia, National Association of Care Catering
2014 Gerard Jacob, Vacherin
2013 Vera Mirescu, Host Management
This award was judged by The Caterer editorial team
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