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This year's winners have literally gone the extra mile. A nine-strong team from Vacherin – managing director Phil Roker, head of operations Simon Macfarlane, general manager Ula Bardovskaja, sous chef Lewis Linley, operations director Tom Rule, general manager Simon William-Smith, head chef Laurence Newsham, catering manager Hamish Thorn and head chef Paul Matthews – took on the business's biggest ever fundraising activity to celebrate its 15th birthday.
The plan was to support Vacherin's charity partner the Luminary Bakery, a social enterprise designed to offer women who have experienced social and economic disadvantage the opportunity to build a future for themselves. It uses baking as a tool to take some of the most disadvantaged women on a journey to employability and entrepreneurship, equipping them with transferrable skills for the working world.
The plan was for the team to cycle fromVacherin's offices in London's Hatton Garden to the Museum of Vacherin cheese in the Jura region in the Swiss Alps, clocking up 665 miles in seven days and a total climb of 27,228 feet, with the aim of raising £15,000 to fund a new training kitchen for Luminary's women to use.
But for nine cyclists with relatively little experience in the saddle, taking on this type of gruelling challenge is no mean feat. To succeed in cycling this distance, and without injury, training is key. All nine embarked on a rigorous schedule of training, at weekends and together in organised events, including the CBRE World's Biggest Property Bike Ride.
Through sponsorship of the ride itself from suppliers and individual friends and family donations, plus fundraising from a silent auction, the team smashed the original target of £15,000 and raised £20,405.
This money has built the new training kitchen, which is having a long-term impact, training an extra 21 women every year in a more professional setting. The investment has made their transition from training into work easier – in fact, 88% of graduates have gone into work, further training or started a business.
Beyond the ride itself, the legacy fundraising has included additional events, such as a treasure hunt and a quiz, which have been attended by the Luminary Bakery team. It has meant better engagement with the charity on a personal level, enabling Vacherin staff to be fully committed to raising donations.
The impact of Le Tour de Vacherin will last for years to come. The caterer has ensured that the wheels keep turning by following up with donors to show them the positive impacts of their donations, creating further interest in the Luminary Bakery and providing business opportunities for it to sell products.
Meanwhile, for Vacherin staff, volunteering with Luminary has improved confidence, mental health and development. The partnership is mutually beneficial, which is why it is such a success. But it wouldn't be so successful had Vacherin not gone the extra mile to support this small, local and very worthwhile charity.
Simon Boyle Beyond Food Foundation and Brigade
Alison Gilbert CH&Co Group
Neil Porter BAM Facilities Management
Neel Radia National Association of Care Catering
Gerard Jacob Vacherin
Vera Mirescu Host Management
This award was judged by The Caterer editorial team
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