The chef is helping cooking duo Wild Scoundrels share their UK-wide campaign of using food to help bring communities together.
North-east chef James Olley, who goes by the name of Outlaw Chef online, is calling on the public to get involved in a nationwide campaign called Roast Donation to get more people cooking and looking out for one another.
James, who works as a freelance chef part-time, was approached by Thomas Radford and James Haselock of Wild Scoundrels to help spread the world about their campaign which sees individuals cook up roast dinners for those most vulnerable or isolating.
The idea is to cook up a roast dinner for a neighbour, friend, someone in need, or even donate items to your local foodbank or charities who support homeless people who can cook up the meals for their service users.
It can be any type of roast from a vegan or veggie version to a full dinner with meat all the trimmings.
He said: “It was started by two chefs in Somerset that I’m friends with, the Wild Scoundrels. They decided to launch this roast dinner donation campaign and they are trying to get chefs all over the UK involved to help spread the word in their areas.
“The start of the year is always pretty rubbish normally, with the lull after the festive break and the weather usually quite dire. With the current situation and being in a lockdown, it has made the start to 2021 a lot worse.
“The idea behind using a roast dinner is that food is a very emotive thing, and roast dinners are always very special. For a lot of people roasts have good memories and they are trying to get people to evoke these good memories through food. It’s usually something that brings friends and family together, something we obviously can’t do just now.”
How does it work?
Having been an avid cook since he was eight, James has spent the last three years going professional and wanted to do something to bring his community together, and help support his friends in the industry at the same time.
“We’re asking for everyone to get involved in the campaign and cook a roast for their neighbour, their friends, family, people in need, you name it. You can also contact local charities to see if you can donate a meal to them as they might be able to cook up big batches of warm food to hand out to those in need from the donations,” said James.
“We want people to care more for the people in their area, and what better way than with food. The guys at Wild Scoundrels have cooked up a few chickens, a big amount of veg and every week have been donating them.
“If you have a leftover frozen turkey or beef from Christmas, then why not cook it up and pop it in with your neighbours, or to someone who you know may be lonely or struggling just now. You could always give it to someone who is elderly and lives locally to you or even someone who is shielding.
“It is a great way to help those in need, or those who may be feeling a bit down, feel better. And they’ll be able to enjoy a nice meal.
“I have had a lot of friends and family say they know lots of people who would really benefit from something like this. The community element of this is so important and we want everyone to be thinking of others.”
Involving a local butcher
Stepping up to the plate to help make getting involved even easier, James has recruited the help of local business JK Fine Foods which has premises in Aberdeen and Westhill, Aberdeenshire.
The firm has created three packages which vary from £12.99 to £16.99 and will allow individuals to cook up four to six plates of food which they can easily hand out to their neighbours or loved ones who need a pick-me-up.
Included in the packs are 1kg of baby potatoes, 500g large carrots, 1 medium onion, 1 broccoli and either a whole chicken, gammon roast or salmon cut silverside roast.
“The idea is to get everyone involved. Everyone has been affected by the pandemic and this lockdown, and so it is a nice way of bringing people together when they can’t physically be with one another,” said James.
“It is great that JK Fine Foods has decided to support this campaign and to get a business like theirs involved has been incredible. This is something no one else has done but just shows that local businesses really want to support their local communities, too. The fact there are stores in the city and Shire is also really beneficial for current restrictions and can allow everyone to get involved easily and help others.
“Some charities might even take the donations of meals uncooked and they may even be able to cook up the food for you and get it to those who need it most. It is important to double check with charities before dropping any food off though as some only deal with store cupboard goods instead of fresh. I guess it is really just a hug on a plate and a nice way of showing you’re thinking about people.”