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RDYC’s Chef Hayden's Community Cheffing During the Coronavirus Lockdown

13th September 2020

If we have learned anything about the Coronavirus pandemic, it must be that strange and shocking times can prompt new and creative ways of thinking and being - AND bring out the best in people.

Whilst the Club was closed during the lockdown due to social distancing restrictions, it is heartening to report that our talented chef Hayden turned community chef, when he put his cooking skills to good use for the benefit of those most in need in our local community.


As the lockdown turned into a long-downtime Hayden and the Commodore were faced with the quandary of what to do with the larder full of food. First thoughts were to donate to the Dartmouth Foodbank. This worthy food source however, generally collects long-life store cupboard food and so instead, Hayden was put in contact with the Townstal Community Project. Showing true community spirit at its best, the TCP - as it is fondly known – is a free service supported by volunteers and during the lockdown they wanted to help individuals and families in isolation, and those experiencing financial difficulties. One of their services was to provide and deliver fresh hot meals – and this is where Hayden took an interest.

In the early days of the lockdown the TCP were cooking up daily meals in a domestic environment. Following a meeting with the Project Chairperson and Mayor of Dartmouth, Graham Webb and Cooking Project Co-Ordinator. Hayden hatched a plan. Not only would the Club donate food that would otherwise have passed its sell-by date. But in consultation with Club Catering Manager, Peter Osborne and the Commodore, Richard Haycock, they agreed to support the TCP by using the Club’s kitchen and facilities with Hayden at the helm.

In true BBC TV show “Ready Steady Cook” style, as part of a team of enthused chefs and home cooks, Hayden rose to the challenge of turning up at the Town Hall on a Tuesday afternoon for that week’s delivery from the food donation network. He then conjured-up a balanced and healthy week’s menu from the many varied ingredients - Sharpham’s Rustic Cheese being a favourite. Somehow, as he always aspires to do for us at the Club, Hayden seldom repeated a dish and his corned beef hash was a definite hit! We might have missed out on Hayden’s fine dining at the Club, but at the height of the crisis as he joined the cheffing TCP, a staggering 200 hot meals were produced every Monday to Friday for distribution from Dartmouth Town Hall to the elderly, disabled, furloughed and working families in need around the Dartmouth and Kingswear area.

We have become accustomed to statistics during the lockdown and the TCP can proudly share the following good deeds figures during this time:

9,333 meals cooked and delivered

5,812 food parcels delivered

198 requests for help answered for residents visiting the Townstal Town Hall

100’s of prescriptions collected and delivered whilst Lloyds and Boots prescription services were stalled

100’s of shopping trips, essential items delivered, emergency dental kits and furniture when items broke, fridges etc replaced or repaired

(Source: Exeter University Connecting Communities Department, one of the TCP partners).

Commenting on his contribution to this commendable community project Hayden said:

“Considering I embarked on this project to keep me busy and to use our Club’s food and facilities, I feel incredibly humbled and very, very proud when I think that the RDYC has done our bit towards this big community effort and I really valued the opportunity to meet new people and make new friends."

The Club also supported the TCP by helping to create simpler pathways for food production and also freed-up hands for other volunteer roles during the pandemic. Hayden enjoyed working with people who show true energy and drive to bring about change within communities for the greater good, by making a positive out of a crisis, and the nod to the old school values he knew as a boy.

Life might have opened up again - albeit with the keep alert restrictions. Volunteers might have gone back to work and Hayden is back to cooking his delicious food for us again at the Club; but the TCP Project is still providing food for those in need. Food parcels are still being distributed and a warm meal is on offer every Friday lunchtime at the Town Hall. With winter on the horizon and plunging temperatures, we may not be out of the woods in terms of this menacing and mysterious Covid-19. But with the on-going challenges for all sectors of all communities, Hayden is pleased to be on standby to help if and when necessary – whether by cooking, fundraising or raising awareness.

Alongside the chefs and cooks, food donators to be commended for their generous contributions include: Dartmouth Fine Foods, The George and Dragon pub, our very own Mark Lobb of Wild Food Devon, Sainsbury's, the Co-Op, Riverfood Farm, Pipers Farm, Sharpham Cheese amongst many others!

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