It seems to have gone well. Five young people turn up, with two more apologising and promising to come tomorrow, which means we have 7 participants, not 6, but that should only be a minor hurdle, and this blog post is perhaps a good way of gently bringing this particular surprise to the attention of our Treasurer…
We sit in the open space of the cafe and talk about what it might be. Everyone is hesitant at first, but I tell them the story of our brilliant chef, who has built his business up from scratch. Two years ago, forced from home, new to the UK and wondering what on earth to do now, Muhammed’s friend had said to him “You have a bicycle, so you have a business”, and now that business is indeed thriving. H looks more inspired. “We have a kitchen, and a place” he muses. We agree it should be ok.
The amazing staff at the Electric Theatre are so welcoming it doesn’t take long to feel at home. With everyone piled into the kitchen area, ideas start to come thick and fast. We can do Eritrean nights. There’s plenty of space to make injera. We should definitely do Kurdish barbecue - everyone would come for that. Can we have music? Can we have dancing?
When it gets to keeping our own goats, I feel bad but bring them back down to the more practical level, because we have several workshops to do. We start with talking about the idea. We now know what we are doing - but do we know why? The Big Leaf ethos is crystal clear in the minds of everyone on our team, but it’s absolutely not our place to impose it on anyone else. And actually we don’t have to. More occasions to speak English; the chance for training and work experience; the opportunity to try out news skills, to have something to do and not be alone in a room, to meet local people - all this is easily identified. “It could be huge” says B. “Like Nandos” says J. “But better”.
We’ve been so lucky to have such enthusiastic offers of help from friends and contacts, and today we had Akira, who is greeted with joy by the lads who were with us at Trill, and Richard who delivers a hugely entertaining and inspiring session on finding the story to make the brand. Richard is Head of Content at Tribal Worldwide, and shows us how stories can create the difference that enables a business to stand out. At the end of the session the teams decide that the way our cafe can stand out is by being "the place that brings people together". It is their idea entirely, and far better than anything we’ve come up with so far. Even Richard calls it “brilliant” and he doesn’t praise easily, believe me.
And so to food safety and hygiene. The laws and requirements around this topic seem endless, and I can’t blame them if their eyes glaze over occasionally. K comments somewhat darkly that there’d been no safety or hygiene in Calais and he “hadn’t died". But there’s no getting around this, even though these topics are complex enough without the barrier of the second language. Still, Akira and I are now expert at miming all sorts of problems symptomatic of food poisoning, and possible hazards in food.
ACM Head Chef Matt arrives to help. When talking about suitable clothing, he mentions casually that K’s impressive head of hair might require him to wear a hair net. Everyone who understands what a hair net is, agrees delightedly. K senses their glee, eyes them suspiciously and asks me what a hair net is. We google pictures and K’s eyes widen with horror. “THAT is very disgusting” he announces, ignoring the rest of them as they insist he choose a pink one. “I will shave my head”.
Tomorrow, we will make our first pitch to a very large, very local business. Next Wednesday we will cater our first event for 50 people. And this Wednesday we will open. Please pop in for a falafel and a coffee and support us.