For the students, getting into the kitchen at Fat Macy’s is the first step to getting into a kitchen to call their own. Because Fat Macy’s is more than a catering company and more than a deli - although they do both things very well (try their cardamon shortbread and you won’t even attempt to even think about another biscuit). They’re a social enterprise, working with young people living in hostels and other forms of temporary accommodation to provide training and eventually help them move into a home.
Before founding Fat Macy’s, Meg Doherty was working in a north London hostel. One afternoon, she says, “I stumbled across a Caribbean cooking course run by a colleague, Tony, on the fourth floor… the smell of grilled jerk chicken floated out of the kitchen and reggae boomed down the halls. Young men I’d seen hours before sitting bored outside the hostel were working together, cooking up a storm, laughing. Piles of jerk chicken, rice and festival dumplings were passed around and wolfed down.”
The cooking session lit a fire for Meg. One of the issues faced by those in hostels is saving for a rental deposit. Hostel rent is covered by housing benefit, for those on Job Seeker’s Allowance, but if those people do get a job, as many really want to, the housing benefit payments stop, leaving the individual in exactly the same financial position and still unable to save.
At Fat Macy’s young people are invited on to a structured work experience programme and sign up for 200 hours of volunteering. They learn skills in the kitchen and front-of-house. “We donate a percentage of the profits to our charity arm, which is a grant-giving trust fund” says Meg. “With every hour volunteered, the pot builds, until our trainees have reached their commitment of 200 hours. At this stage, we help them look for appropriate housing and, once everything’s in place, our charity grants the trainees enough money for a deposit, two forms of photo ID, a month’s travel card and some clothes for work.”
our charity grants the trainees enough money for a deposit, two forms of photo ID, a month’s travel card and some clothes for work
The menus change seasonally, and incorporate new recipes from the trainee chefs. Fat Macy’s cater everything from two-person picnics to large corporate events, but you can also try their Salted Choc Chip Cookies or Seeded Crackers from Different Kind.