Bringing a neighborhood along with meals – South London Information

Bringing a neighborhood along with meals – South London Information

By Killian Faith Kelly

In the north aisle of Southwark Cathedral is a memorial to a man named Thomas Kur.

Cure made a small fortune making saddles for Elizabeth I and used part of it to buy the land where Borough Market is now located.

In 1584 he gave the land to United St Saviors, a Southwark charity which to this day uses the money raised to fund charitable causes in the region.

Enter Mike Donovan. In 2014, at the age of 61, he was standing in the kitchen of his café in Bermondsey – a a mile and a half from Southwark Cathedral – cook someone’s full English and look out his window, once again, on a bunch of teenagers sitting around doing nothing.

Picture above: Mike Donavan in his Bermondsey Community Kitchen (Photo: Killian Faith-Kelly)

It brought him back to his childhood in the area.

“I was like, ‘This is ridiculous,'” Mike said. “I had a lot of chances when I was in school – why didn’t anyone give these kids a chance?”

And so the Bermondsey Community Kitchen was born. Mike decided he would use the wreck up at his café on Market Place in Rotherhithe to train 18-24 year olds to be chefs.

The initial running costs were met by two grant organizations – a stranger overhearing Mike despairing of an electricity supply convinced his employers to pay the £15,000 it would have cost.

And the capital – the stoves and pots and pans and all the other implements that Mike and his family and friends lugged up the stairs, which came from United St Saviors and his saddler.

The Bermondsey Community Kitchen, next to The Blue Market in Market Square (Image: Google Street View)

The stairs were a real pain. Mike’s friend David Reid, who grew up on the same street as him, carried up two tons of sand and cement and laid the floor. “I kind of pushed him into it that,” said Mike. “He’s never refused me anything since we were two years old, that boy.”

David is now its chairman.

Once that was done, they had an opening. Raymond Blanc said he was visiting for 20 minutes and ended up staying two hours. And off we went – ​​training unemployed young adults and get them jobs.

It wasn’t long before Mike’s daughter, Shannon — “the brains of the operation” — suggested they sit Raised beds on country estates that brought neighbors together in ways they didn’t expect.

“This Iranian wanted to grow chilies and this Nigerian wanted to grow tomatoes. They water the plants with their families, haven’t spoken to each other in 10 years and now they talk and tend to each other’s plants and their children talk to each other.”

Then one day in Iceland, Mike saw “an old boy with a sandwich, a bottle of soda and chips. For his dinner – that’s a shame.”

So they started their next project – a cooking class for senior bachelors.

“They all came in and said, ‘Where’s our dinner?’ I said, “You’re gonna cook it up there, come up.” Now they all go to the pub together.

Then there were courses for women trying to return to work after pregnancy. And for tenant associations to get their hygiene certificates so they can offer food on their settlements.

And when Covid came and all of that stopped, Mike and his wife started making dinner distribute in the parishes that would fund them.

Their record is 550 meals in a week, but they’re hoping to break it.

When Mike was asked if it was a lot of work for a 69-year-old, he responded with a story — one day his phone rang and it was an elderly lady asking if he was Mike? yes he was Well, where was your dinner? He was confused.

She said she used to have Mike deliver her dinner every week but not this week and now she doesn’t have dinner.

Mike realized he was no longer getting any monies from their council, so he had to stop delivering there. “I nearly cried. That keeps me going. People like her – they’re out there and they need our help. And until something stops me, I’ll keep going.”

Picture above: Mike Donavan in his Bermondsey Community Kitchen (Photo: Killian Faith-Kelly)