After helping to set up Crisis’ Hammersmith centre the day before it opened to its homeless guests, I did my first two shifts on the 23rd and 24th in my new role as Key Volunteer/Kitchen Coordinator. The leap from being a General Volunteer (somebody who does tasks like serving teas, cleaning, supervising showers, handing out clothes, etc) to that of Key Volunteer (a junior manager of sorts!) is quite a big one – even with the training Crisis provides – and I’ve had the added pressure of helping to run a kitchen with zero catering/restaurant experience.
I’ve always thought Crisis volunteers were a great bunch, but I’ve quickly discovered the kitchen volunteers are absolutely outstanding. They’ve been a fantastic team to work with, beavering away tirelessly with cheerful efficiency and putting in hours of hard work to produce some delicious meals for our guests. We’ve been serving around 200 guests per meal (that’s breakfast and lunch for us on the morning shift), and on the menu for lunch we’ve had dishes like gammon with mashed potato and vegetables, bread and butter pudding, soup (vegan and additive/allergen free) and chilli/veggie chilli with rice.
As the Kitchen Coordinator, I’m luckily not responsible for preparing or cooking the food myself. Instead, I get to do things like health and safety checks (eg. fridge temperatures), monitor our food supplies, manage our daily food delivery together with the centre’s Quartermaster, and make sure the volunteers are taking breaks and drinking enough (important in a roasting hot kitchen!). My main job is to supervise service, from briefing the volunteers on how much food to plate, to checking all the washing up gets done afterwards – a mammoth task, even with our rather nifty industrial dishwasher! I’m used to Crisis Christmas being hands on, so it’s strange to have to take a step back and direct other volunteers to do the work, rather than doing it myself.
So far my Crisis experience this year has been quite different to the past three years. Not worse or better, just different. Being Kitchen Coordinator has been a big ask, but my second shift definitely went more smoothly than my first, and having had a couple of days break and time to reflect on what I could do better, I’m looking forward to donning my apron again tomorrow morning.