Hope Kitchen: Chef Dale Spink Thinks “It’s Time to go Back to the Old-School Ways”
Private chef and restaurateur Dale Spink has teamed up with Vulnerable Citizen Support to start Hope Kitchen. A gourmet soup kitchen with a mission to deliver hundreds of meals to families (or anyone) in need across Leeds.
The first menu, which went live on 1st March 2021, included starters of butternut squash and ham, pea, and leek soups; mains of roast chicken and chilli con carne, and lemon sponge and custard for dessert. The menus will change each week according to which ingredients are available, many of which come as donations from local businesses, including the veg store Sutcliffe’s and Harvey’s Quality Family Butchers, both in Farsley.
THE BEGINNING OF A CHARITABLE FRIENDSHIP
But where did the idea all start? Dale’s relationship with Vulnerable Citizen Support began in November 2020, when he offered to donate some leftover meals from his company D’s Meal Prep.
“We always overdo the orders just in case we’ve missed any,” Dale explained. “And instead of tarnishing the value of the product and selling it at 50%, I thought, ‘Why can’t we support a local charity?’
“So then they messaged me one night saying they do an outreach midweek. Going around the streets of Leeds with hot food. And they asked me if I could cook meals for them. I said, ‘Not a problem’. I’d been wanting to do it for ages. And then I went and served it with them.”
At Hope Kitchen, hot meals are delivered across the LS12 and LS13 districts, while the rest are shipped out in food parcels across Leeds. Or otherwise to referral centres and food banks, ensuring that no food goes to waste.
And what has the response been like in Hope Kitchen’s first outing? Falling slightly short of their 500-meal target with 470, Dale still says, “It was a good start”. The venture even attracted the attention of MasterChef’s Matt Healy.
“It’s gone massive – it’s fantastic,” said Dale. “The warming messages and people were getting in contact actually needing the meals. And then the support and interest for donations for the food banks has gone up. Overall, it has helped the charity move forward to where it wants to be.”
“FOOD IS HOPE”
Hope Kitchen gets its name from the company maxim: “Food is Hope”. Something that Dale hopes will prompt people to look out for each other again.
“With COVID, and everyone struggling financially, I think it’s time to go back to the old-school ways where you support anyone around you, rather than being selfish,” he explained.
“The main thing at Hope Kitchen is to make sure that every meal is a proper meal, and it tastes nice. A lot of slop gets sent to the homeless, or ingredients that are donated just get thrown together. That’s why I tried to structure a menu. Mental health is a massive thing now. And I want people, when they eat something, to feel like they’ve been thought about. We don’t just put it in a tub; we’ll plate it up, so it looks presentable. So that when you open it, it’s more than just a meal.”
Dale revealed how he means to increase his target by 10-20% each week, beginning with 700 meals next week. In addition, he has been contacting local primary schools to see if they will allow themselves to be used as collection points.
“The hardest thing in this modern era is people admitting they need help,” Dale said, “So if we can create a place where they can do it discretely… where we can set up a fridge and they can just grab what they need… it’d be fantastic.”
FINGERS IN ALL PIES
Hope Kitchen is just one of a number of ventures on Dale’s plate. He entered the catering world on work experience aged just 13, after the dream of becoming a professional footballer went south. From an apprenticeship at La Rue in Saltaire, he now heads D’s Meal Prep, as well as Le Voyage, a private dining event, and The High Bar Café at Nile Wilson’s Gymnastics.
Furthermore, his first restaurant, Brontaè’s, is set to open in Horsforth in May. So how does he juggle all this, with the responsibility of fatherhood added on top?
“It starts at home, really,” he said. “My partner is fantastic – she takes the biggest weight off my shoulders. She understands where I want to be and where we want to be as a family. We’ve grown up on council estates ourselves, and we want to be better for our daughter.
“And then the restaurant came about. It’s been a dream of mine forever. Since that first week, I think I said, ‘I’ll have a restaurant one day’. And as a family, we always say, ‘We will’. If you’re positive-minded, you will get your results. So that’s what I try to do, and what we try to drill into our daughter as well. ‘No one can tell you ‘no’.’
“One of the main reasons I got Brontaè’s was I got told I was too young to be a Head Chef at 23. And I thought, ‘That’s just systematic’. Who can say that you’re too young? If I’m going to put the effort in, and put myself in an uncomfortable situation to learn, then I’m surely ready. And now I have four businesses.”
For the success of Hope Kitchen so far, Dale had a number of thankyous to give for their help and support:
“Haydn Lee leads the charity, doing absolutely fantastic work, and he doesn’t take credit for it like he should. He’s the reason the charity is where it is. Jason Stockings helped me get D’s Meal Prep to where it is, so I can’t thank him enough. Plus all my team at Meal Prep. And my family. We’ve been through a tough time with COVID, and they’ve stuck by me and my mental health. Finally, anyone who’s volunteering or donated, such as Sutcliffe’s at Farsley, Harvey’s Butchers, Neils Catering Division… anyone who’s even liked or shared. Because it takes it an extra mile.”
Hope Kitchen is delivering hot meals to anyone who needs them within the LS12 and LS13 areas on Mondays. Dale Spink’s restaurant and bar Brontaè’s is due to open on 17th May.