I have put this blog off for a while, to be honest writing about Kaiwecare has been as daunting as organising it and this time I don’t have a core group of exceptional, hard working and committed (and to be honest there were times when they probably felt they should have been) people to help or a small army of dedicated professionals giving their time to make it a success.  More than anything it’s hard to write about it because it seems so surreal at times.

Last Tuesday (26th April) I, along with Mat Follas, went to meet John Key the Prime Minister of New Zealand at The Gherkin. We had been invited as representatives of those involved with Kaiwecare to come and meet him as a token of thanks for the work that was done and the money that was raised so far. It was a lovely, if unnecessary gesture. I got all gussied up in my suit, which was very well received, although I am not sure if I should be flattered or insulted that people seemed so shocked that I could scrub up nice, and met Mat at The English Pig run by chef / patron Johnny Mountain (you may remember him as the bloke that cried on a recent cooking show!). We had a wonderful lunch with Meemalee and TheCriticalCouple (I would include links to your twitter pages but I don’t actually know how to do that!) and then jumped a cab to meet the PM. The reception was on the top floor of the Gherkin, which is reached via 2 separate banks of lifts and a walk up a winding stair case to what I can only describe as a breath taking view of London. The room was populated by some high flying ex-pat Kiwi’s keen to shake the great man’s hand, a small barrage of tv crews and paps, folks from the embassy and a selection of people who’s vague job titles seem to demand a truly heroic intake of canapes. Then there was Mat and me, standing off to one side bitching about recent services and talking about food while I was trying to get as much swearing out of my system as possible before our promised audience with the PM. If you read this blog then you know I am fairly free and easy with the F word, not the show where Gordon Ramsay insists on stripping off while a song somewhat worryingly proclaims his love for his mother in the background, but the word “fuck”. While those who know me are used to it, there was a mild panic amongst them that I would swear in front of the Right Honorable Mr Key and spark some sort of international incident.

When he did talk to us he was exceptionally nice, very sincere in his thanks and extremely well briefed on who he was meeting, he congratulated me on winning Masterchef, said I was a lot taller in real life and asked Mat what part of Ireland he was from! We chatted for about 10 minutes and I didn’t fucking swear once, although I did manage to get “reach around” into the conversation! I said that Ireland and New Zealand were quite similar as we were both small island nations who’d had a big reach around the world. If Mr Key noticed he is far too good a politician to let on and if he didn’t and hears about it through this then sorry mate but there was a bet of a beer involved! As a Kiwi I know he will understand!

Ok now we get to why I have hummed and hawed over writing this. In that room were various people who are very senior members of very large charities (these would be the canape eaters). While the PM was an absolute gent, the New Zealand High Commissioner Derek Leask a charming and engaging host and Justine Arroll a credit worthy ambassador for New Zealand not one of the great and the good of the charities came within 10 feet of us. And you know what? That kind of fucked me off.

It got me thinking about all of those who sacrificed to help make Kaiwecare happen. Those who gave not only their time but a part of themselves to ensure it was a success. Yes me and Mat were the poster boys pushed out front, him because he is a celeb and a Kiwi, me because I was the fucking idiot who suggested the pop-up dinner in the first place but we were in all honesty only players in a team of often unsung heroes. The likes of Anny Baxter who managed what no other woman in 35 years has managed and kept me on the straight and narrow for a month while compiling numerous spread sheets and action plans and then pretending to believe me when I swore blind I had read them. She never once grumbled, she simply got on with things, who knew that stoicism could come in such a petite frame. John Commyn, the one person whose sanity more than any other I tested over the month, took on logistics who’s scale is normally only seen during sustained military conflict or an Elton John shopping spree. As John and I are mates I spent more time with him than I did with most involved and he was therefore the one who had to make sense of my half baked ideas. He practically melted his Oyster card traipsing around London and on the day in question had to climb into a white van and dash across the city to make sure we actually had food to cook with. He was joined in this frankly ball aching task by Huey and Nathan, two guys we had never even spoken to until the night before who turned up offering to pick up the rest of the food. We then handed them the keys to vans rented in our name and hoped they would return with said vans intact and a couple of grands worth of Michelin star prepped food. The did just that and were complete legends.

AngHarad Davies brought me a burlesque troop, for that I will be forever eternally grateful. She then wouldn’t let me within 10 feet of them, for that I will be forever eternally a little bit ticked off but she proved herself to be one of the most reliable, competent and selfless people I have ever worked with, she may have a slight Percy Pig addiction but she is a complete sweetheart.

Grant Hawthorne took on the unenviable task of bossing a brigade of 42 chefs and proceeded to give a master class in how to run a kitchen. Every course hit bang on, every element served in exactly the right manner, giving every dish and every chef who worked on it, along with every producer and supplier who donated the food to make up the course the chance to shine. I have no idea how he did, not only did I never hear him shout I hardly heard him speak, at a look people knew what he wanted for them. Honestly at one point I walked into the kitchen and saw 40+ chefs and thought “fuck this I need a smoke, I can’t look at this many people right now”. I went outside, calmed down, had a smoke and came back in…………..to be greeted by the sight of 50+ front of house staff waiting to be deployed. At that point in the day I resolved to never leave the building again in case more people rocked up while I was gone.

Front of house in itself was a massive undertaking. 9 course to get to 200 guests in 2 and a half hours with a team that had never worked together and in the vast majority of cases had never set foot inside the venue, even typing it now it seems fucking ludicrous that they even attempted it, no mind that they pulled it off with such spectacular professionalism. Headed up by Rob Berry (never say “nom” in his presence he will look at you with a blood chilling stare), Giancarlo Princigalli (who even by Milan standards is always a vision of sartorial elegance) and Phil White (who self-deprecatingly describes himself as some bloke who runs a pub in south London) with the help of Michael West and Martin Renshaw of Pollen Street Social and their entire front of house team which we stole for the night as well as my own team of Emma, Hannah and Charlie from The Ship these guys were flawless. Their service and professionalism more than did justice to the food prepared by the incredibly talented chefs in the kitchen. The were matched stride for stride by Ed Francis and his wine team, including Angus MacNab and Johanna Wimmer and prerequisite Kiwi Emma Shanks.

Not a wine fan? Well Melissa Cole had you covered with a full bar of beers, cider (cheers babe you have no idea how much I needed a glass of that at the end of the night) and spirits. We had bar tending legend Johnny “The Rocket” Knight bossing an all-star team of Joel and Aggy from The Green Man Putney, Alice Procter from The Nightingale in Balham and Ben from The Merchant & The Clarance (yes he’s that good he has two home pubs). A seemingly small bar crew to slake the thirst of 200 guests and 100 staff but they showed it’s all about the quality of the staff not the size of the crew.

I roped in countless friends and Twitter pals, Chris Pople and Hugh Wright greeted people on arrival and ensured they were made feel welcome from the start. Olympic level schoomzer and all round legend Oisin Rogers interspersed his lubricating people’s wallets to pull us out of the shit on more than one occasion. I even roped in my then very new landlady Kay and the lovely Holly from The Luxe Upstairs to register people on arrival. KaveyF (Kavita to her friends, superstar to me) took some beautiful photos of the night while the afore-mentioned Meemalee did what no other videographer managed on the day and caught me swearing on camera.

The food on the night was of a quality not seen outside of a Michelin star restaurant, and not seen in any Michelin star joint in those numbers was as good as it was not only because of the skill of the chefs but because of the quality of the the produce donated. It would take me an eternity to list all those responsibly so I will post a digital copy of the menu / brochure soon so they can all receive their deserved congratulations.

Mat Follas, MatKiwi if you’re on Twitter, did the most amazing job of promoting and pushing the event. On the night he was exceptional in his role as the ambassador for Kaiwecare, with Nick Coffer and Tim Hayward sharing the microphone duties ensuring that people knew why they were there, what they were eating, (thanks to Peter McCombie they knew what they were drinking too) and latterly why they were being relieved of large chunks of their cash. Through all the stress, all the panic, all the near disasters Mat projected an image of warmth and calm that kept people relaxed and enthused, he never failed to give anyone his time, to pose for photos, to share a word or a joke and deserves every word of praise he has received for his efforts.

So me? What did I do during all of this? Well I shouted a lot, I smoked a lot, I swore a lot, I pissed people off, I treaded on toes, I yelled at chefs, at the end of the night I yelled at guests and told them they hadn’t drank enough and I insisted they buy the remaining contents of the bar before I would let them go home and I generally made a nuisance of myself, but someone had to. When it was over physically I was a wreck, the adrenaline that had kept me going for so long left my system and I crashed hard. I knew I would, I had allowed for it, I had made a deal with myself that no matter what I would see it through to the end and when the end was reached my body called in my marker. Not only would I do it all again, us mad crazy bastards are already planning it.

note: To anyone who I failed to mention I am sorry, this blog is already way over sized and it’s now half 2 in the morning. The efforts of everyone who contributed were immensely appreciated and without every little bit of help we could never of achieved this, I thank you all sincerely.

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