Glynn Purnell, head chef, Jessica's restaurant, Birmingham

16 November 2006
Glynn Purnell, head chef, Jessica's restaurant, Birmingham

Glynn Purnell, head chef of Jessica's restaurant in Birmingham, is taking part in the StreetSmart campaign to raise money for the homeless. He talks to Kerstin Kühn

Why did you first get involved with StreetSmart?

I just felt it was a great idea, especially in the run-up to Christmas. It's easy to forget about people living on the streets, but this campaign can really make a difference. Most people don't notice giving an extra £1, but to homeless people it really makes a difference.

What does the campaign entail?

We use a table card that encourages guests to add a voluntary £1 to their bill during November and December. We then pass the money on to StreetSmart, which supports reputable homeless charities in the local area. Last year we raised £1,000 and hope to do the same or better this year. It isn't an in-your-face kind of campaign. It's very subtle and discreet and only asks for people to make the gesture of a small voluntary donation. There's no pressure.

Why is it important to support these types of charity events?

Christmas is the time of year to spend with your family, celebrating and enjoying good food together. Many homeless people don't have families, so it's a good time of year to remember that and support them.

Is there an irony between great gastronomic restaurants like yours raising money to help the homeless who can't afford proper meals?

Yes, and I think that's what makes it work. You'll always have rich and poor people, but there are people who are worse off and I want to help them.

You've had accolade after accolade at Jessica's. What's the challenge for 2007?

I've been really happy for the last three years but I always want to improve things and push the level of my cooking. It would be great to gain a second Michelin star, but that's not something I'm obsessed with. It's more important to me to cook for and please my customers than the restaurant critics.

Are you going to expand the restaurant concept to other cities?

Birmingham is my home and where my heart is. I've thought about launching a midmarket restaurant somewhere in the inner city, but I wouldn't want to move elsewhere. There are great restaurants in Birmingham but there's a lot to be done to make it a true culinary destination.

You help train a lot of youngsters. Why is this important?

I have a young trainee from the Birmingham College of Food who's been with us for about four months. He's representing Great Britain in the Apprentice Chef of the Year competition in Luxembourg. It's very important for me to take in local chefs and train them. By keeping Brummies in local kitchens I hope to get them to help make Birmingham a better culinary destination.

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