Bossing It: Danny McCubbin

I’m thrilled to introduce my second Bossing It guest: the brilliant Danny McCubbin – chef, host, mentor, food campaigner & much more!

Danny and I met when he was working with Jamie Oliver and we’ve stayed connected through my personal charity work and his brilliant work with San Patrignano. He is a leader in the charity field and has paved the way in making a difference…

Danny, Ruben & I at Soane’s Kitchen

Firstly, in a couple of sentences tell me a bit about you. What do you do and WHY do you do it?
I worked for Jamie Oliver for close to 17 years which was an incredible journey. I will never forget attending the graduation of the first group of Fifteen apprentices in 2003. I had just started working for the company and at the graduation I experienced first hand how food really can change a person’s life for good. Jamie was such a great mentor and over the years I got to work on some truly remarkable campaigns such as Jamie’s School Dinners and the Ministry of Food programme. I now volunteer and consult on projects where food is used as a positive vehicle for change. I also volunteer to help people in the UK who are having challenges with drugs to enter a community in Italy called San Patrignano. I am often asked why I volunteer and the simplest answer is that I do this because I can.

Can you tell us more about the project at San Patrignano you are helping with? 
Based in Italy, San Patrignano is the world’s most successful free drug rehabilitation community. It is a long term free programme and residents are there for over 3 years. Learning a skill is hugely important for the residents and there are over 52 different skills that the resident can learn when they are there. San Patrignano is a social enterprise and residents make products to sell to contribute to the running of the community. There are 2 restaurants at San Patrignano and the residents also produce some of the best meats and cheeses in all of Italy.

I started volunteering for the community over 10 years ago helping to get their wine and food products into stores in London such as Fortnum & Mason. I set up the UK San Patrignano Association 3 years ago that helps UK residents to enter the community.

Danny McCubbin at San Patrignano
Danny at San Patrignano

The community kitchen you are supporting in South London sounds like a fantastic initiative. Can you tell us more about the wonderful charity and who it is helping?
Many years ago I was approached by a charity in Merton called CDARS to start the process of helping some of their service users to enter San Patrignano. Over the years we have stayed in contact and as soon as Covid-19 hit London they asked if I could set up a Community Kitchen for them to cook a nutritious meal every day for their community who were isolating. The wonderful team at St Mungo’s in Clapham have lent us their kitchen and we now cook 60 meals a day for the CDARS community and also for the homeless people who have been staying in the hostel at St Mungo’s. I have gathered together a team of volunteer chefs, some of them Fifteen graduates and I am so proud of the food that we are cooking.

This week we connected with a food surplus charity called Waste Not Want Not Battersea and they have been providing us with top quality produce from Covent Garden market to cook with. Our meals are being delivered to veterans and those people in South London who are isolated and suffering from mental health and addiction challenges. The team at CDARS have offered me a part time job to establish a permanent CDARS Community Kitchen and also create a training programme so that we can start to teach the vulnerable people how to cook for themselves. I am hugely excited about this.

On to your dinner party! Name your 4 ultimate dinners party guests (dead or alive) and tell me why they deserve a seat at your table…
I would love to sit down and have a lovely dinner with my dad, my mum and my brother and sister here in London. My Dad never got to experience my life in London and all that I have achieved here, I would have loved to have taken him to Fifteen and San Patrignano. We have been living in challenging times as of late and I have been thinking of my family a lot.

If I came over for dinner, what sort of food would you serve?
My grandparents were farmers back in Australia so I grew up always surrounded by good food. We also used to grow a lot of our own produce at home, so I had an understanding from a young age that if you have good produce then you don’t need to mess with it much. It would definitely be Mediterranean based and I would serve you “picky bits”. This is what my family refers to when you lay out lots of plates of food on the table and everyone helps themselves. On my table for you would be – loads of pickled veg, hummus and cheeses, maybe a fennel and orange salad, some onion chutney, sourdough and some prosciutto from San Patrignano.

Talk me through your day in food: Do you have time for breakfast? What’s your favourite meal?
I am a big fan of porridge and I have that most days for breakfast with fruit and yoghurt. I am cooking nearly every day in the Community Kitchen so I make sure that I eat with the rest of the volunteers. Lunch is definitely my favourite meal of the day and at the moment I am having the food that we serve to our community. I have had so many great meals, it’s hard to pick one that is a favourite. If I had to though it would be the first time that I ate in the dining hall at San Patrignano. It’s an incredible experience to share a meal with 1300 people, very moving indeed.

Jamie Oliver & Danny McCubbin
Jamie & Danny at Fifteen

Can you recommend some books, podcasts for readers that you’ve been inspired by?
I practice mindfulness and the best app that suits me is Headspace. I was fortunate enough to have Andy Puddicombe teach me the principles of mindfulness many years ago. It was a particularly challenging time in my life and I met Andy at the exact time when I was looking for some peacefulness in my life. Andy has also written a book called “Get some Headspace“.

What are you most looking forward to doing once lockdown is lifted?Playing tennis, heading to the Suffolk coast for a few days and walking along the beach, going to a movie and cooking dinner for my friends.

And where is the first place you’ll eat out?
Probably at a friends for a dinner party.

Danny McCubbin

Bossing It is a new series featuring inspiring individuals and entrepreneurs who are doing exciting things and leading their industry by example. First up was author, cook, podcast host & food writer Alissa Timoshkina which you can read here.

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