Sharp-tongued food critic, William Sitwell, served up a glowing review for volunteer cooks at a popular Royal Voluntary Service lunch club in Rickmansworth, in a new film released last week.
The film is a tongue-in-cheek MasterChef style spoof that follows William as he visits Mill End Lunch Club in Rickmansworth to enjoy a decadent home-cooked feast of shepherd’s pie and bread and butter pudding.
The film has been created as part of a campaign called “Cooking for a Crowd” designed to shine a spotlight on the hundreds of Royal Voluntary Service lunch club volunteers across Britain who gift their time to serve more than 50,000 meals each year to older people in the community. The film was shot at the weekday lunch club in Rickmansworth where volunteer cook, Tricia Hegde cooked for the MasterChef judge and the club’s usual crowd of diners.
Tricia Hegde has been volunteering at the Mill End Lunch Club in Rickmansworth for eight years and appeared unflustered by William’s presence.
She said: “Having William Sitwell visit felt no different. I’m used to cooking for a crowd, so one more wasn’t going to make much difference. Whether we’re cooking for a MasterChef critic or Kay who lives down the road, we will always put in our best effort.
“My shepherd’s pie and bread and butter pudding is always a hit with our lunch club members and we were absolutely chuffed with William’s rave review. It is fantastic a notable food critic like William has been able to try the lunch club for himself, experience the social atmosphere and gain an understanding of how vital they are to older community members.”
William Sitwell said: “I have had the good fortune to dine in many of the world’s best restaurants, but when it comes to healthy, hearty food, the Rickmansworth lunch club would be hard to beat. These home cooked classics, served with spirit and love, are what makes British food the best in the world. “
“Although I was there to try the food, I was really humbled by Tricia and her fellow volunteers and the sense of community and camaraderie among the diners – for many this is their only opportunity to share a meal in the company of others each week.
“We should all take inspiration from Royal Voluntary Service’s volunteers who give their time freely and generously and make amazing things happen in communities up and down Britain.”
Royal Voluntary Service volunteers run nearly 80 lunch clubs across Britain, which provide more than just tasty hot meals to older people in the community. Lots of the members who come live alone, without relatives or a support network nearby, and the clubs are a chance to socialise with others and meet new friends.
Lunch clubs meet regularly (some daily, some weekly, fortnightly or monthly) and are open to anyone over the age of 50, with attendees able to enjoy a two-course meal for £5. Support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery is helping Royal Voluntary Service to develop more Lunch Clubs and social activities across the country. The Mill End Lunch Club is open every weekday from 11.15am-1.15pm with lunch served at 12.30pm.
Rebecca Kennelly, Director of Volunteering, Royal Voluntary Service said: “We were very excited when William accepted our invitation to join one of our lunch clubs and experience first-hand the high quality food and companionship on offer from our amazing volunteers. Our lunch clubs provide more than just a delicious, hearty meal to the 1,300 people who attend each week. For many of the diners, who would otherwise be eating alone, they provide opportunities to make friends, build a support system and help maintain social connection, which is particularly important in later life.
“We hope this shows just how important lunch clubs are to older people in the community and inspires more people to become members or donate their time to volunteer. We also want to encourage more people to take the lead in their communities, by volunteering to start up their own lunch and social clubs.”
Since his visit to Rickmansworth, William Sitwell has been working with Tricia and other volunteers across the country to compile his favourite Royal Voluntary Service Lunch Club meals into a cookbook, which is now available to download online. Recipes include Tricia’s shepherd’s pie and bread and butter pudding.