Food

World's first fine-dining restaurant staffed by homeless people to open in London

Home Kitchen is set to open in London’s Primrose Hill in September with two-time Michelin star winner Adam Simmonds as executive chef in a bid to tackle hospitality labour shortages and rising homelessness

Home Kitchen restaurant is set to be staffed by homeless people in London

Michelin star winner Adam Simmonds said he wants his new restaurant to lift workers out of poverty. Image: Supplied

A fine-dining restaurant staffed by homeless people working with a Michelin star chef has moved a step closer to opening with the support of the Big Issue.

Home Kitchen has been in the works for almost two years but will open its doors in London’s Primrose Hill on 6 September with Adam Simmonds as executive chef in a bid to tackle homelessness and hospitality shortages.

The fine-dining social enterprise has been made possible with the help of a £210,000 investment from the Big Issue’s social investment arm, Big Issue Invest.

“Home Kitchen will be an accelerant out of poverty for our recruits and an incubator of untapped talent for the catering industry,” said Simmonds.

“The restaurant business is an ideal vehicle for our social impact because if you can change perceptions in this world, then you can do it in any other walk of life.”

Danyal Sattar, the CEO of Big Issue Invest, said: “It’s a pleasure to support Home Kitchen’s ambitious plans to bring change through enterprise by offering people with experience of homelessness a route into the hospitality industry.

“Big Issue’s Blueprint for Change is calling on the next government to invest in education and skills and produce more stable and secure employment as well as ending rough sleeping by 2030.

“The solution that Home Kitchen has cooked up certainly has the ingredients to help achieve those goals.”

Home Kitchen will start off employing a team of 16 people with full-time contracts paid above the London Living Wage with travel expenses and professional catering training and qualifications also covered.

Home Kitchen has been working with Beam, Soup Kitchen London, Change Please, Beyond Food Foundation and The Passage to find its first cohort of recruits with 16 jobs initially.

Each recruit will have experienced homelessness in some form, whether homeless through sofa surfing, living in hostels, unstable or temporary accommodation or rough sleeping.

They will receive training to acquire professional qualifications in the Beyond Food Foundation’s FreshLife course.

After recruits have passed their 90 days probationary period at Home Kitchen, they will go on to Westminster Kingsway College. They will complete a pro culinary skills certifications alongside their in-work training to give them a solid footing in the catering industry.

Home Kitchen restaurant is set to be staffed by homeless people in London
Simmonds (centre) and the Home Kitchen leadership team are hoping to pass on catering skills to people experiencing homelessness to lift them out of poverty. Image: Supplied

Hospitality has been hit hard in recent years by the pandemic, Brexit and the cost of living crisis.

There were 107,000 vacancies in the sector in the quarter up to April 2024 – 15% higher than pre-pandemic levels. Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, said the figures showed the labour market was “out of sync” with positive news in other parts of the economy.

Meanwhile, homelessness has continued to surge. The official rough sleeping snapshot in England showed a 27% increase in autumn 2023, 317,430 households asked councils for support last year while the number of homeless households in temporary accommodation is at a record-high at 112,660 households.

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Home Kitchen believes drawing on people who experience homelessness to fill catering and hospitality roles is an untapped resource.

Speaking to the Big Issue in 2022, Simmonds said the idea for the restaurant can be traced back to Covid lockdowns in 2020 when Simmonds stepped in to help Alexander Brown feed 160 people a day at Soup Kitchen London. 

Now Home Kitchen plans to open up more projects in other cities with significant homeless communities across the UK and internationally if the fine dining concept takes off.

Brown, one of the co-founders of Home Kitchen, said: “Promising negotiations are underway for a further round of potential backers for a second restaurant in Brighton, home of the second biggest UK homelessness population, also with US based backers for a much-needed initiative in San Francisco.

“The first step into this journey will be proving both the commercial and social impact of Home Kitchen Primrose Hill.”

Simmonds has designed a seven-course fixed tasting menu for launch which he promises will “blend exquisite flavours and ingredients to create an unrivalled culinary experience”. A broader range of fixed dishes will also be on offer.

The venture has attracted a range of backers alongside Big Issue Invest, including big names such as Budweiser, Kraft Heinz and Zurich Community Trust.

Do you have a story to tell or opinions to share about this? Get in touch and tell us moreBig Issue exists to give homeless and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income. To support our work buy a copy of the magazine or get the app from the App Store or Google Play.

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