Image by Anna Slitcher
If there ever was the perfect time to be a guest at a Fat Macy’s Christmas supper club, a wet, post-daylight saving November evening was it. I arrived at Good &Proper Tea Co, one of the locations for the supper club, ready to be fed and watered.
A social enterprise, Fat Macy’s staff is made up of volunteers and trainees. The trainees are young Londoners living in temporary accommodation who volunteer their time in order to gain necessary life skills. Each volunteer is paid £10 an hour which goes directly into their secure housing deposit fund, which is held until they have enough saved up for a deposit.
“A social enterprise, Fat Macy’s staff is made up of volunteers and trainees. The trainees are young Londoners living in temporary accommodation who volunteer their time in order to gain necessary life skills”
I’d hardly said my hellos to my fellow guests before I was gifted with a pre-dinner drink – a rosemary gin and tonic flavoured with clementine. During the day, the café serves tea enthusiasts but come evening, it had been repurposed to comfortably sit around a dozen dinner guests.
Despite being ready to eat, however, I was a little apprehensive about the other bit of supper clubs: having to eat, in an intimate space, with people you don’t know. For some, this may be a thrilling prospect, but for the post-7pm winter weeknight me, it was a little bit daunting. Less than 20 minutes into the evening, however, I had already had two engrossing conversations with the wonderfully attentive Fat Macy’s staff (I spilt an entire glass of water on the table and was reassured that I was not a liability at all… just enthusiastic).
And it’s the staff that truly create the magic of the evening. Once the staff have saved enough, after the presentation of the tenancy agreement, the deposit is paid straight to the private landlord. It’s a great way of helping people living in temporary accommodation to break free of the cycle of homelessness.
If residents work more than 16 hours a week, their housing benefits get slashed and it, therefore, falls on them to pay a higher monthly rent. Of course, for many residents, this removes any incentive to get full-time work and it makes it even tougher to build their savings. Stuck living in temporary accommodation and at the sharp end of government welfare cuts, many residents end up feeling disheartened and under pressure.
“Since March 2016, Fat Macy’s has trained 60 young people in in-hostel boot camps, worked with 20 young people at events and enabled 24 trainees to gain their level two food hygiene qualification”
Since March 2016, Fat Macy’s has trained 60 young people in in-hostel boot camps, worked with 20 young people at events and enabled 24 trainees to gain their level two food hygiene qualification. They aim to provide real help to residents by giving them hard skills (finance management, food hygiene, work experience, running events) to set them up for life after living in temporary accommodation.
We were in good hands; as well as the volunteers, the meal was also courtesy of the accomplished chef Aphrodite Fingal-Rock Innes – but you can call her Dixie. As well as establishing her own food brand, Aphrodite, Dixie was a finalist on Channel 4’s The Taste where she was mentored by Anthony Bourdain and recently worked in the bakery kitchen at foodie London’s favourite, Padella.
A willing and ready (lucky) lot, we were served a substantial three-course meal. The cheddar cheese and leek tart (non-dairy options available – just ask beforehand!) was the perfect way to prep my stomach for what was to come. For the main, I had the chicken braised with sherry, which had a beautiful depth of flavour essential in a proper winter meal. The perfectly crisp on the outside and fluffy in the middle roast potatoes and roots with garlic and tarragon stood no chance either – they were served in trays, so obviously I went for seconds… and thirds.
“A willing and ready (lucky) lot, we were served a substantial three-course meal. The cheddar cheese and leek tart was the perfect way to prep my stomach for what was to come”
The lentil and walnut stuffed squash vegan main looked delectable too. Were it not for societal decorum, I’d have reached over and eaten a bit from my neighbour’s plate. Sprouts were served too (it’s just not a Christmas supper without sprouts) and I wolfed those down too. For research purposes, obviously. And because they were absolutely delicious. By the time the clementine posset with cinnamon biscuit dessert arrived, guests had gotten up and swapped seats, eager to get stuck into the last course as well as the good conversation.
With nearly 80,000 households in temporary accommodation and thirteen times for hidden homeless than rough sleepers in London, Fat Macy’s provides a genuine way to invest in the lives of those who require it most. Fat Macy’s will host seven Christmas supper clubs at Good & Proper Tea Co, and three at 32 Cubitt street throughout December. They’re also available for Christmas catering, so you can enjoy the delights of a Fat Macy’s meal with your colleagues or with your friends and family.
Tickets can be bought at www.fatmacys.org/events
Enquire now by emailing [email protected].
(They’re also running a crowdfunder. Fat Macy’s has been chosen by UnLtd and JCDecaux to earn £30k of offline advertising for their new space with their See Change Make Change campaign if they can crowdfund the first £13k. This would allow Fat Macy’s to work with JCDecaux’s Social Impact specialists on a nationwide digital out-of-home campaign to raise the profile of their social mission. Check out the crowdfunder here)