We met up with chef Lyndsey from Cafe Des Amis in Easton, Bristol to talk food, friends and the impact a cafe can have on the community.
How do you use the food you get from FareShare?
On a Friday when we pick the food up, we look at it and plan specials for the next week, so it means that we have totally different food on the menu every week.We wait to see what comes and work out how we can use it.
It keeps the menu fresh, creative, imaginative and it means we don’t fall back on the same thing all the time. In having different ingredients it means you can tweak things, so our specials are a really low price to the community.
The other aspect is that we can offer to community events and parties, so we can offer to support charities and community activities by using the food, because it brings the cost right down. So it’s only our time that we need to cover, and not the food – it means that a lot of people can put events on that wouldn’t be able to otherwise, without big overheads.
Would your beneficiaries use the service without the offer of food?
Well, food is what we do! We have such a cross section of society come in, a fancy marketing company from down the road come, charities, lots of parents and kids, older people and someone that just comes to work with a coffee. Using FareShare means we’ve got the means to support everyone. We always do a hot soup for £2.50 so you can always have something for that price.
There is a whole group of people on the fringes of society who come here, they’re the hidden ones who’re on the edge of working and functioning, not accessing free food, but can’t go out and socialise and eat. We didn’t want this to be a social café, we don’t want a label on it, but by what we do we can make it accessible to everyone.
What difference does using food from FareShare make to your organisation?
It definitely meant we’ve employed and extra member of staff because of it. We’ve now got the scope to say to a chef, come in and prep. We can spend that money on his time making burgers etc. it’s meant we can afford to invest time into our offer.
It’s also meant we can offer a wider variety of food to our customers. With FareShare we can offer specials at a lower cost which means they sell, it doesn’t get wasted and we keep that variety on the menu. We’ve always said we can’t donate money, but we can give time. Sometimes providing something free, or giving money doesn’t help as much as giving something low cost, because then everyone can invest into it and there’s no stigma attached.
Do you see any long term changes in your customers that come to the café having been here?
Definitely, there’s one lady who has a little one, then had a second baby and was really suffering. She didn’t have a proper working kitchen at home, so she jokes it’s her second home here in the café, but actually she can come in and have a meal, 3 or 4 times a week. When she’s stressed it gives her a break and a space to be. She’s met other Mum’s here now and they’ve got a whole network where they meet once or twice a week. When she first came in we were so worried about her, because you could see it was just too much. She couldn’t deal with everything happening to her. Yet she’ll come in, have a chat, bring the kids and there’s a social aspect to it all.
It’s not about being worthy or anything, it’s what we love to see. We have a knitting group, an autism parent’s network, a Cornish group, there’s so much going on, but if they have to rent a room it costs money, so they come here.
We just want to make sure anyone can come in, make a mess, bring the kids, enjoy it and we’ll sort everything else out after!
Cafe Des Amis is located in Easton Community Centre, and serves fresh, homemade food Monday-Saturday. You can see example menus and contact information here.