Pictured: Paul.A.Young chocolatier, Chris Mackett of Hand and Flowers, Fred Sirieix General Manager of Galvin at Windows, Chris Galvin, Eric Lanlard, Jose Pizarro, Marinos Kosmas and Kamal Manhas, who is a graduate of the Galvin’s Chance programme. Credit: Pellier Photography.
In a heartwarming chocolate-themed event for charity, a glittering array of chefs have signed up to create glorious, exclusive Valentine’s Day chocolate boxes which will be sold in an eBay auction in order to raise money for Galvin’s Chance. The impressive line-up of chefs includes such legendary figures as Michel Roux Jnr of Le Gavroche, Raymond Blanc of Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, Jamie Oliver, Simon Rogan of Fera and Tom Kerridge of The Hand and Flowers. The Valentine’s Day Chocolate Box Auction will run for ten days on-line from Jan 26th, offering those keen to impress their loved ones a chance to buy a very special token of their esteem while supporting a worthwhile cause at the same time.
Fred Sireix, General Manager of Galvin and Windows, together with chef Chris Galvin, co-founded the charity Galvin’s Chance which provides a supported into-work programme for disadvantaged young people and he is the driving force behind the auction. The idea of the "Chocs for Chance" Valentine’s Day Chocolate Box Auction came about, explains Fred, because “we were thinking what we could do to raise awareness of Galvin’s Chance, make more money and, therefore, get more kids on the programme. We wanted something we could do every year and Valentine’s Day was coming up, so we thought let’s do something with chocolate, get everybody to make some chocolate and auction them on eBay.” The line-up of participants reflects both Fred’s excellent culinary contacts (“I made a list of people and approached my friends”) and the general goodwill towards the charity Galvin’s Chance. "I believe that everyone deserves a second chance,” says acclaimed chef Nathan Outlaw who is one of those taking part, “and it's not much to ask to put a box of goodies together for such a good cause. Over the years, I've worked with a number of young people who, for one reason or another, have fallen by the wayside but once they're given a chance and shown that they can succeed, it's amazing how they change their whole attitude and outlook on life.”
Fred talks with true passion about what motivated him to set up Galvin’s Chance with Chris Galvin. “I cycle every day from my home in Peckham to my work in Mayfair. For a few months there was a series of crimes on the OId Kent Road . One day, at 1 o’clock in the morning, a guy was stabbed at the bus stop so I was diverted onto an estate and I saw this kid who was about 13 years old outside at 1 o’clock and I thought to myself ‘my god what is going on here?’ It took me back to my own childhood and all the chances I had. My parents weren’t rich but they cared – the parents, the family, the community they were there for me. This kid, I was thinking, who is going to take care of him?” It made me think about my own kid, my own family – what I had – so I thought we need to do something about this. This is where I live, so I need to do something. I know people in the industry and thought we will take these kids, give them a job in front of house, because this is what I do and that’s how it came about. The kids we have on the program they are very disadvantaged, so we want to give them a chance because they are going the wrong way. Also to highlight the industry, the manpower and skill we have here, because people don’t see catering as a career, when really there are so many opportunities”
Driven by this desire to make a difference, Fred Sirieix and Chris Galvin established Galvin’s Chance in 2009 and have seen 127 youngsters start on the programme. Seeing how the charity has directly affected young people’s lives has inspired Fred. “ It’s amazing. A girl called Kamal came on our programme. It was difficult – she would come late, she would cause trouble. But you have to close one eye, you have to be patient. It’s about giving a chance to people; it’s a charity. She worked with us and left after one year. She married a boy she met here and worked in several other high-end restaurants. She is also a sportswoman. She’s become a personal trainer and is doing really well. She’s on the track – very sure, confident. Every time she sees me she says ‘I can’t believe how much Galvin’s Chance changed my life, I can’t thank you enough’ – every single time,” he says happily.
The Valentine’s Day Chocolate Box Auction and its laudable aim has managed to attract support from across the world of food. Valrhona, the prestigious chocolate company, are donating ingredients which many of the participating chefs are using. "Galvin’s Chance is a very worthy cause, as it is about the catering industry giving a chance to young people, who often feel ignored and without opportunity. This initiative provides guidance, support and training, allowing their creativity to spring forth,” says Marie Van Branteghem, Valrhona’s UK Sales Manager. “As a World Ambassador of Haute Gastronomy and with over 90 years of working with pastry chefs and artisans through the creation of the World Pastry Cup, where creativity and inspiration is so important, we are thrilled to support this initiative, and look forward to encouraging future generations into the industry.”
Award-winning chocolatier Paul A. Young is among the talented line-up offering to create a box of chocolates. “Galvin’s Chance is a fantastic programme for disadvantaged young people,” he says, “In a city with such a diverse population it’s a great opportunity for kids whose backgrounds may not have been as privileged as most“ Noted for his creativity when it comes to creating chocolate flavours, Paul is opting for a characteristically inventive combination. “I’ve created an exclusive filled chocolate for the charity. It’s a one-off flavour and won’t ever be available in any of my shops making it a perfect Valentine’s gift. I’ve made a salted raspberry reduction, topped it with a Sacred Gin martini ganache and enrobed it a rose-infused Ecuadorian raw chocolate.”
For chefs who don’t normally work with chocolate, taking part in the event does offer some challenges. "Actually, I'm rubbish at making chocolates,” says Nathan Outlaw candidly, “ so Pete Biggs, my Head Chef at Outlaw's at The Capital Hotel, and I have asked if we can create a box of very special Cornish goodies, fairings (crispy, buttery biscuits) and fudge, instead! Both of these are traditionally Cornish and very moreish, using lots of cream and butter. A bit different and very naughty but then, it's for a good cause! And not everyone likes chocolate so we're hoping they'll raise lots for Galvin's Chance because they'll be unique! "
Spanish chef Jose Pizarro, of Pizarro restaurant in Bermondsey, was keen to take part and support Galvin’s Chance. “I know Fred – he’s a great guy. We were having dinner in Pizarro and he asked if I wanted to be involved in it and I said excuse me of course I want to be involved. When a friend asks me to do something I will be there – it’s a great cause.” Working with chocolate, however, is “a challenge” he laughs. “ I’m not a pastry chef!” For inspiration, however, Pizarro has looked to his native Spanish cuisine. “My chocolates are going to be olive oil, sherry vinegar, pimenton pepper, lemon, blood orange – all of those flavours coming from the Mediterranean really. We’ve experimented with the pimenton and the vinegar already and I have to say they were amazing! I was very pleased. Hopefully people will be happy and hopefully people will spend the money.” And that, indeed is what Fred Sirieix and all those taking part are hoping – that this creative chocolate event will raise lots of money for Galvin’s Chance. As Fred says simply, “I just think we have to have more kids going through this programme because it works.”