Cheap eats grow profit and community spirit

December 16, 2016

An idea to serve a cheap, flavoursome breakfast while raising funds for charity – and bringing people together, turned two last month.

The Community Café in the cathedral’s Hatherly Hall is a regular Tuesday morning (7am-10am) event. Thousands have flocked through its doors, feasting on items such as crepes, coffee, porridge and toast for $1 an item.

In total more than $40,000 has been raised for charitable organisations and appeals.

Volunteers who staff the café were acknowledged at a Saturday lunch recently.

Chef Dave Sleep began with the café at the beginning, alongside former Dean Jamie Allen. At the time he was in between jobs, and while he now has paid work elsewhere, he pops back to check on his old crew. “I think if I hadn’t had something like this I would not have gone back to chefing.”

Liam Conaglen has taken on some of the key kitchen roles after starting about 18 months ago. “It’s a commitment but I enjoy working with the other volunteers.”

New volunteer helpers are always welcome, says Liam. “People just fit in where they can.” For him, the work has provided purpose and identity.

Carey Hickling had catering experience before she joined the kitchen team almost two years ago. “Cooking is my passion and it’s the reason I get out of bed in the morning.” She shops for the café, prepares the food on a Monday and arrives at 6am on a Tuesday to start making crepes and many of the fillings.

Thriftiness is a motivation to keep the costs low. Excess produce for example is stewed or turned into sauces, says Carey who comes up with ideas for many of the crepe fillings.

As well as enjoying the cooking, she firmly believes in the importance of every helper, saying that no one station in the café can work without the other.

“There are a lot of people in that kitchen in a small area. We don’t have any Gordon Ramsay’s but if people get stressed you give them a smile and stay calm. It’s just as easy to smile as it is to growl.”

Jeremy Hogg is front-of-house co-ordinator, helping to seat customers and take orders. A chef for 12 years, he volunteers at the café because “it’s good to give back to the community and put a smile on people’s faces.”
He enjoys the change from chefing: “You don’t see the people when you are cooking.”

As well as kitchen and waiting staff, there’s a volunteer on the till, people who top up the coffee and those who donate food – individuals and businesses.

Countdown for example donates milk collected by Kim Maunder, who also picks up leftover bread from local café Petit Paris. (When she’s not distributing milk to the café she takes it to the New Plymouth Foodbank).

Kim wanted to volunteer when she moved back to New Plymouth. Crepe making was an early job but the former journalist and fundraiser found she was more useful out the front, swapping the specialty bread for gold coin donations. For her it’s a great example of community mobilisation.

*Money raised by the café has gone to special appeals such as the Ebola epidemic and the earthquakes in Nepal as well as organisations such as Tear Fund. The last café for 2016 is on December 20 and it reopens on 17 January 2017.

[Photo: Volunteers Pat Green, Dave Sleep and Liam Conaglen at the cafe birthday celebration]

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