Ladies Page

Gill Fowler

SERVING UP HOPE AND THE GOSPEL…

Christian chef Gill Fowler is cooking up a fuss in Somerset, as
the gospel is being preached through catering projects at an Elim church

As a pastor’s wife, my first job is to support my husband in any
way I can, but God also gave me the gift and passion for catering and
hospitality. I didn’t realise when I went to catering college more than 40
years ago, that I would be using my gift for the church and cooking for such a
wide and diverse group of people.

When our church, Elim Connect Centre in Somerset, was given a rundown building in the
city to develop as a commu­nity ‘hub’, we decided to make food and excellent
hospitality a central theme in our project work. I had been making soup for the
weekly soup kitchen for a few years from home, using my very small cottage
kitchen to do all the church baking and Alpha meals as well, among other
things. However, we embarked on a vision to reach people who ‘fall through the
net’. This proved to be exciting but challenging catering.

In June 2010, the Connect Centre kitchen was finished, and the
first meal I cooked was forthe weekly hot food drop-in forthe homeless, drug
and alco­hol abusers and disadvantaged adults. I had two un-churched volunteer
helpers from our weekly drop-in, who decided that the chance to work in this
brand new, commercial kitchen with all its
new equipment was a great opportunity.

I trained as a food safety and hygiene trainer and enrolled new
staff on my first course. Some were people we were working with and included
former addicts, people with mental health issues and long-term unemployed. I
was thrilled when they all passed, despite some special learning needs.

A year down the line, and so much amazing work has been done
through the Elim Connect Centre. It is now being used every day of the week and
I have had different volunteers over the year, each with their own
capabilities. As I have taught them to
cook, serve food and deal with the general public, they have taught me a great
deal of patience and other things. My hope is that their time with us will give
them the skills and confidence to go back into the workplace.

The kitchen produces a vast variety of food, from the daily
drop-in hot meals for the homeless to cordon bleu buffets for groups we partner
with. My team members have overcome issues in their lives and I can see them
changing for the better each week. One of my team is starting an appren­ticeship
with us and will attend catering college one day a week and achieve an NVQ.

Our weekly drop-in now caters for up to 85 on a Wednesday and
around ten every other day, and once a month we cook a full roast Sunday lunch
for the church and wider community who invite their families and friends. We
are developing Connect Catering even further, with out­side catering jobs, and
we have various events booked in.

Some weeks I work 60 hours and am a volunteer, but I know for the
first time in my life that I am where God wants me to be.

• Visit www.connect-catering. org.uk for more information.