Jessica Murphy talks to The Sustainable Restaurant Association about their Support the Community campaign

The Staff Canteen

The Sustainable Restaurant Association speak to Jessica Murphy, head chef at Kai in Galway, about the importance of connecting kitchens to communities and why it can help solve the chef shortage.

To restore or refresh. That’s the definition of the French word restaurant and the very nature of hospitality is to bring people together through fabulous food.

Jess Murphy with Syrian Chefs
Jess Murphy with Syrian Chefs

Kitchens that are connected to their communities are places that have loyal customers, loyal staff, and some of the tastiest food. It’s a recipe for a sustainable and successful business. There’s a lot of brilliant work going on already in restaurants across the UK with chefs and business owners using their skills and ability to connect with people to help change lives for the better.

There are so many ways a restaurant can engage in meaningful social action. This month the Sustainable Restaurant Association is calling on the industry to Support the Community and #ShareASlice. It’s partnered with The Breakfast Club to launch a new platform, Good Day Productions, to help hospitality maximise the impact of that connection between kitchens and communities and help it become synonymous with social outreach and action.

The Breakfast Club has won numerous awards for its volunteering scheme which includes weekly cookery courses for adults in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, a course for refugee women in textiles and hosts get-togethers for older people in its cafes where they also socialise with staff to help combat loneliness and isolation as well as many other projects with local charities. All the projects are chosen by staff at its 11 sites.

At an event to launch Good Day Productions, Eva Arnaiz, Head of Charities and Communities for The Breakfast Club, said its volunteering scheme. has seen staff gain extra skills and return to work with an even greater sense of fulfilment. And doing good is a recipe of a successful business too - almost nine out of ten consumers are loyal to businesses that address social issues.

Jessica Murphy, Head Chef at Kai, in Galway has discovered another really important benefit of connecting Kai’s kitchen with its community – it can help to solve the staffing crisis.

Jess says: “We are immigrants too, but we didn’t have to seek refuge here to escape a conflict. October 29, 2017 was a day that will mark the beginning of a time of change in Ireland. I am from New Zealand and co own Kai Restaurant, along with Heron & Grey’s Damien Grey from Australia, from Japan Takashi Miyazaki of Miyazaki and the award-winning pastry chef, Louise Bannon and three Syrian colleagues, chefs Mhd Ahyam Orabi and Ahmad Orabi and baker Amer Marai we held the first ever Far Fetched Dinner in Loam Restaurant in Galway.

“Myself, Damien and Miya are all head chefs in our own businesses in Ireland, not-from Ireland and all have settled here, from the west, east and south. We came to Ireland where we had to start careers working with food here, we had, however, every opportunity to do so. We had no barriers to hold us back. Our Syrian friends are not as lucky, this is why this dinner needed to happen.

“When we think of the many things refugees bring with them to their new countries, we often forget that they also bring their talents and skills too. The dinner shows the huge potential that exists in allowing refugees to use those skills to rebuild their lives and contribute to the communities they have adopted as their new home.

jess murphy quote

“With a chronic shortage of chefs in the Irish hospitality industry, this was an opportunity to showcase the skills of refugee chefs. They also get to share their particular knowledge and expertise to the benefit both of the four cooks sharing their kitchen, and of the dinner guests on the night.

“The three chefs are based in Waterford and on the night created traditional Syrian breads which really stole the show. They were share breads so people just tucked right in, tearing the breads apart and this was a great start to the evening as it got people to relax, enjoy the food and share the experience. The chefs presented the breads to the room and people were really impressed by the offering.

“The sell-out Far-Fetched Dinner, supported by our fantastic producers, was the first of its type, and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, plans to work on further initiatives in the future. Food connects people. We live in a changing Ireland and integration, realm integration with people and in communities is how we can all make Ireland a brilliant place to live, work and enjoy life.

“There is a massive chef shortage in Ireland, having this talent now in Ireland from countries like Syria means that we can expand the workforce. Creativity comes from mixing food cultures in kitchens, this will add so much to the food scene here too.

“All monies raised from the dinner will go towards education and training. The Far-Fetched Dinner in conjunction with Galway Mayo Institute of Technology have together established three funded scholarships in catering, specially designated for young chefs in direct provision. Training them in food, hospitality and chef skills, this means this joint dinner is not just a one-off, but an event with a real and lasting impact.”

Chefs can show their support for the SRA’s Support the Community campaign at where they can read more inspiring case studies as well as find resources to help get started. And look out for more new from Good Day Productions early in 2018.

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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 18th December 2017

Jessica Murphy talks to The Sustainable Restaurant Association about their Support the Community campaign