Chris has been a volunteer at FoodCycle Finsbury Park since 2017 and has racked up almost 1000 hours with us. Mostly to be found in the kitchen leading the team as Cooking Leader, Chris is a talented cook and loves to create dishes from around the world to delight FoodCycle guests.
We asked Chris to look back over his six years at FoodCycle to give us some of his personal highlights…
How did you discover FoodCycle?
When I was working in Singapore, I volunteered with an amazing charity called Willing Hearts, who cooked about 5000 meals per day for those in needed. Inspired by this, when I came back to London, I looked for something in this area via Google – and fortunately for me I encountered FoodCycle!
Tell us about your first day at FoodCycle?
My first day was actually our last day at our old location near Kings Cross – but despite this being a ‘transitionary session’, I had a such a good time that I knew that I had to follow the project as it moved to Finsbury Park. The things that really stood out to me were the creativity that went into the cooking; the clear impact (smiles!) that it put on our guests’ faces; and the friendly and welcoming volunteer team.
Tell us about your favourite FoodCycle meals?
Too many to name – but I would say those are when the team really pushes itself in terms of our creative boundaries and leads to guests leaving with big smiles on their faces. Sometimes, we do days with a little advanced planning, to create a ‘theme’ day, where we try to cook all our dishes from one country or region; or sometimes we do everything completely off the cuff, just figuring it out on the day based on what we receive. Both are equally fun.
In the past, we’ve done two fundraisers with celebrated chef Asma Khan where we she guided us to create a three-course meal for the paying public. Not only did we raise a significant amount of money for FoodCycle, but we also had a lot of fun cooking up a storm. Most memorable of which included experimenting with different ways to open a coconut and creating a mountain of gajjar halwa (carrot halwa)!
Tell us about your volunteering role at FoodCycle?
As a volunteer Project Leader, my role is to steer the team towards creating a nutritious, delicious, three-course vegetarian meal for our guests based on surplus ingredients that we receive from charity partners such as City Harvest and local greengrocers. As a foodie with a love for diverse flavours from around the world, I really encourage our team not to play it safe. We try to push the boundaries in terms of what can be done with our 2.5 hours of prep time. For example, we make many things from scratch, including bread, pasta and noodles!
What is your favourite thing about volunteering at FoodCycle?
It’s always lovely to see the smile on guests faces and the warm, welcoming atmosphere of our community meals. But also the energy and enthusiasm of our volunteers as we push ourselves to create and serve restaurant-quality meals.
Tell us any ways that working with FoodCycle has changed you?
I think I’ve definitely improved my leadership skills. I’ve learned that leading well is not about telling people exactly what to do, nor how to do it, but about creating a shared vision, like a dish for example, and helping others bring out their own skills in executing it. I’ve also learnt that there are pretty much no limits to the diversity of vegetarian food – we’ve hardly repeated dishes in my six years of volunteering!
Stay in touch with the FoodCycle family. Sign-up to get the latest news, volunteering opportunities, events and updates sent to you every month. You can unsubscribe at any time.