Student Chef Benji Cooks Up a Treat for the NHS

“It’s been really busy. We’re in week 8 and so far we’re coming up to our 6000th meal.” Trainee chef Benji Nathan doesn’t like to have nothing to do. When faced with the prospect of no work for weeks or maybe even months because of the UK-wide COVID-19 lockdown, some people might be tempted to kick back a bit and relax.

Not Benji. In addition to his online studies with Westminster Kingsway College, he works for his cousin Adam in his catering business Adam Nathan Catering, preparing delicious dishes for the company’s clients. When the lockdown was announced in March, Adam asked Benji if he could help out more, as Adam wanted to continue creating dishes for any of the firm’s clients who still needed them and to help support the NHS at the same time.

A photo of chef Benji Nathan, who is helping to cook meals for NHS workers during the COVID-19 crisis.

As Benji explains: “A friend of Adam’s works at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in Central London. She told us that many of the staff weren’t eating properly, because they are really busy and the canteen is closed now, because of the virus. We thought we could help, so whenever we get an order for our meals from a paying customer, we offer them the chance to spend an extra £10 to ‘donate a meal’ to the hospital. With the help of Richard Delow, who trained to be a chef at Westminster Kingsway College and The Vincent Rooms too, we’re averaging 130 meals for the hospital each week, which is all thanks to the generosity of our customers.”

A photo of meals for NHS workers during the COVID-19 crisis.

As well as catering for the company’s customers and the donated NHS meals, Benji also bakes for a north London community organisation called You Donate We Deliver, which provides free meals for NHS workers. Since it was started by a north London mum and her daughter at the end of March, You Donate We Deliver has gone from helping a handful people to feeding thousands of staff in hospitals across north London every day, with the help of a small army of delivery drivers and chefs like Benji, coordinated through six ‘hubs’ across the region.

Benji continues: “When I leave college I want to be a chef. I am studying on the college’s Pastry diploma to expand my knowledge and become a more well-rounded professional. So every week at home with my family, I bake around 150 portions – cakes mostly – for my local You Donate We Deliver hub in Totteridge.  It’s wonderful to be able to do what I love, while helping the NHS at the same time!”

But that isn’t all. As well as baking for NHS staff, and the catering work and NHS meals he prepares with Adam and Richard, Benji also has to keep up his Westminster Kingsway college studies, even while it’s closed. He is in his third year at the college and, before the lockdown, was studying at our Victoria campus full-time. Now working at home or from Adam Nathan Catering’s St Albans kitchen, Benji has been able to continue learning and has enjoyed watching the college’s ‘lockdown’ online Culinary Masterclasses series too. “The other chefs in the kitchen and I have watched the Masterclasses and really enjoyed them. The next Masterclass is with Sarah Mountain [a well-known Pastry Chef] and I’m really looking forward to that!”

As you’d expect, Benji’s Level 3 Patisserie Diploma course has many practical elements, so, although he can’t attend college and practice his craft in the kitchens there, he’s definitely keeping his eye in at home. “I am very busy doing college work, plus all the meals I’m doing with Adam, and baking for You Donate We Deliver. I love it and it’s very rewarding!

“I have also been practicing other baking techniques and learning new skills too. For example, I’ve been learning how to make flowers and things like that out of fondant icing, to decorate cakes. It’s my Grandma’s 95th birthday soon and I’m going to make her a cake and hand-pipe some flowers to go on it.  I hope she likes it.”

PS: Benji’s Grandma loved her cake!
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Sebastien R
Sebastien R
12/12/2020
Fantastic London Secret Fantastic lunch with Michelin star food and service at pub price. Great experience, lovely food and people.
David L
David L
11/12/2020
Christmas at the Brasserie Almost a year to the day since the last time, we are back, this time at the Brasserie instead of the Escoffier. Situated in the hall, the decor is functional but pleasant enough and there had been an effort to dress it up for Christmas. Covid precautions are impeccably implemented. There is no doubt that you are in a classroom not a restaurant. Don't let that put you off - its great what these students and their teachers do. Our server was Tia (hope I spelled that right) and she was friendly and attentive. Service was very prompt - I won't say rushed as we were never pressured but we did end up asking for some time to choose dessert simply to give ourselves some breathing room. In a commercial place I would suspect they were trying to turn the tables but here I think it was just exuberance. The food was the usual high standard. Starter of poached pear and blue cheese salad was enjoyed by both of us. Dining companion had the classic turkey and all the trimmings. I had the root vegetable strudel which was beautifully presented and enjoyable. The chocolate mousse for dessert was nice but we both found it too sweet for us and thought the cream was a step too far - but we chose it instead of the cheese board because we wanted to have something prepared by the kitchen. Value is great for the level of food and service: the bill came to about £90 for 3 courses each and a bottle of wine. Snags: they forgot to offer us bread before the starters arrived, rectified before we had even thought to notice the absence. And my mousse was missing the tiny star shaped shortbreads as advertised - only spotted by us half way through eating it. None of which detracted in anyway from the experience. It cannot be said enough that this is a great place that needs support to enable these students to progress. Go if you can, it's a gem. I hope that 2021 is a better year for the hospitality sector and that we are back much sooner than next Christmas.
Peter B
Peter B
04/12/2020
Amazing delicious meal We had the Christmas meat menu and it was very special. The whole meal had just the right amount of seasoning - perfect. The cauliflower cheese soup with cauliflower pieces was complimented by a slight spicy fried bhaji. The prawn sauce with the fish was delicate and perfect with the haddock. Now the venison was not only tender but really well cooked and the chutney was really tasty - a Christmas's flavour. To finish the chutney I would have needed more venison but was getting a bit full by then. The Christmas pudding was to die for. Congratulations a brilliant meal beautifully prepared with fabulous ingredients and the service was nearly Michelin starred. Well be back
Veniceaddict7
Veniceaddict7
22/10/2020
Delightful meal Visted for lunch today in Escoffier Room (held in Brasserie section on this occasion). Welcomed warmly by reception and students as usual. The Escoffier menu was outstanding. There was not a course you could fault. The compte brulee was my favourite - will try and duplicate this at home! Food was beautifully presented and superb. The students were effecient,friendly and helpful. Better than my birthday meal at a Michelen starred restaurant. Sadly not many customers due to covid however very safe set up so would encourage others to go. Amazing value for money.
Edwardscot
Edwardscot
21/10/2020
The Vincent Rooms I had a very pleasant and relaxed 5 course meal with wine pairing. The food and wine were excellent, the staff are students at the college and are helpful and informative. For £60 it can’t be beat for value. A firm favourite.
W14wanderer
W14wanderer
21/10/2020
Budding chef’s creations Delicious food created and served by students at Westminster Kingsway College. Six course tasting menu - wine and food - of very high quality and at a very reasonable price. The experience so enjoyable and good to encourage the young chefs who’ll be running our restaurants in due course.
Tully
Tully
19/10/2020
Lovely lunch, hope to return soon We ate in the Escoffier and had the seafood menu with accompanying wines. All was very good and we enjoyed very much. To my personal taste : 1. the tomato consume added little to the seafood medley. 2. The crumble detracted from the sorbet. 3. The chocolate bavoirois would have benefitted from a contrasting flavour on the plate, eg citrus, ginger, or other fruit. Thank you and best wishes to all the students.
Sue Twyford
Sue Twyford
13/10/2020
Fantastic menu and attentive service A lovely atmosphere with very attentive service, a seven course seafood themed menu. Each course was delicious, the dover sole being a particular delight. The price for a fine dining menu was excellent and well worth a visit, we will be returning and would highly recommend.
Laura E
Laura E
08/10/2020
Perfect lunch - delicious dishes and great service Like most people, my husband and I haven't eaten out that much recently so it was a real treat to come here for lunch yesterday. The tables were spaced out very comfortably and the environment was modern, inviting and spacious. The menu (which changes every week) was really interesting, created in partnership with New Covent Garden Market so you could chose to have an entirely vegetarian 7-course lunch or one which included fish and meat, but conveniently you could pick and chose per course. I mainly had the fish/meat menu but hand-picked the artichoke starter which was so fresh and tasty, a great choice. The pork belly main with scallop was a definite highlight, but all the dishes displayed a high level of sophistication and strong mastery of different techniques. Im a celiac and they were very good at accommodating this in the dishes, even giving me different petit fours. Top marks, we will be returning soon!
Tom_Egerton
Tom_Egerton
08/10/2020
The best value, high quality, enjoyable eating in London for sure! We ate at the Escoffier room which is the 7 course set menu option. A bargain at £31 a head which included super high quality produce cooked with skill by the third year students. Interesting, flavoursome dishes with a weekly changing set menu. This week was a sea food based menu which didn't disappoint. service staff are first year students which are learning the ropes in the hospitality world. Maximum effort and attention was given by everyone we met. well worth checking out if you want something a bit special and we will definitely be returning again soon!
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Westminster Kingsway College
76 Vincent Square
London SW1P 2PD