Industry raises over £10,000 to keep chef Si Toft's restaurant open

03 August 2016 by
Industry raises over £10,000 to keep chef Si Toft's restaurant open

Almost £12,000 has been raised to support a chef who was forced to close his restaurant after being hospitalised last week.

The JustGiving campaign was set up in order to ease the pressure and help Toft with bills while the restaurant was closed. It raised £6,400 in 24 hours, smashing the original target of £1,000.

Since its creation six days ago, the campaign has received a lot of support on social media. Gordon Ramsay endorsed the page on Twitter: "Speedy return for this very talented Chef, come back Stronger Si we know you can do it. Best Gordon" and chef-restaurateur Gary Usher hosted a 'guest chef night - without the chef' at his restaurant Sticky Walnut in Chester last Sunday.

Usher said: "Si is a one-man band; he does all the cooking himself in a tiny little restaurant. He's constantly fighting. It's hard work; he deals with the same shit we all deal with but he does it alone.

"When he got ill last week he had to close. I sent him a direct message on Twitter, asking what was wrong and he told me he had to close the restaurant. I saw he was in hospital again last night. He said he had to close again and wasn't sure how long it was going to be for. We are just trying to help out a chef with his restaurant."

The total raised at the time of publishing stands at £11,450 from 305 supporters.

Speaking to The Caterer, Toft was shocked at the reaction to the crowdfunding page, which was set up on his behalf.

He said: "Honestly, I'm really struggling to get my head round it. But it's incredible. Bearing in mind I had nothing to do with the page, it all stemmed from a quick message to a mate. Gary [Usher] jumped on it because he knows something like this could finish off a restaurant of our size. The amount raised so far already means I can pay the front of house staff and I'm not going to let down my suppliers.

"Without it, I don't know what would have happened. We possibly could have got through the weekend, but any longer than that and it would be a question of whether we would survive. We're in a very seasonal area, we take a huge percentage of our turnover in July and August and we rely on that to subsidise the quiet winter."

Toft has since come home from hospital but has been instructed to take a further week off for recovery. The Dining Room is due to reopen on 10 August.

Johanna Toft took to the Dining Room's Facebook page to thank supporters: "The last few weeks have been tough on us as a family with Si unwell at such a crucial time. Anyone with their own business knows taking time off is never easy; for us if Si isn't able to work, we simply can't open, so he puts a lot of pressure on himself to keep going no matter what. Thanks for the kindness you've all shown us, pressure has now eased.

"I want to say thank you to every person who has helped us out with their kindness and support. What's happened in the last 24 hours is overwhelming; we've been incredibly touched by the generosity shown by not only our friends and regular guests but also by those in the industry and many people we don't even know. What you've all done is amazing and more than enough to allow us to pay staff, suppliers, rent etc while Si takes the time he needs to recover."

Visit the Just Giving page here >>

Industry unites to raise money to support hospitalised chef >>

Sticky Walnut's Gary Usher rewards key staff with share options >>

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