Nourish Hub’s Head Chef, Oli shares his story from nomadic chef to volunteer driver, through to crucial culinary creator.
Heading up the kitchen team at the Nourish Hub, Oli Way is a passionate and supportive chef, leader, coordinator and food rescuer. His journey to Head Chef has been fascinating, supported by friends, colleagues and peers across UKHarvest. As a ‘vital member of the team’ (Ffion Hayward, Nourish Hub Manager) and ‘the kitchen volunteer’s advocate and mentor’ (Andreea Rizea, Nourish Hub Volunteer Coordinator), Oli’s love of travel, desire to provide healthy food to those that need it and love of creating incredible dishes has ensured that Oli’s lock down volunteer role resulted in his employment as a fundamental member of the team at the Nourish Hub.
Beginning his journey as a seasonal worker in Europe, Oli spent a winter working in Meribel, France, as a restaurant cook. He found himself, like many, in a lock-down career crisis. The hospitality industry was suffering at the hands of COVID and the only option was to embark on a new route to finding a way to stay busy until the world opened again.
Thinking on his feet, he chose a volunteer driver position at UKHarvest for the Donnington office in West Sussex, collecting and delivering food across the South of England, honing his 3 point turns in a large van. But once the team found out he had a wealth of cooking experience and expertise, he was relocated to the kitchen where he worked with our chefs and kitchen team to create some incredible meals using surplus food. This was back in 2021, when things really took off for Oli.
Oli’s hard work and determination shone from the get-go and it was clear to everyone that he was not only a talented cook, but an incredibly motivated character who showed compassion and support to everyone he encountered.
Before long, it was an opening in the role of Head Chef at the Nourish Hub which enabled Oli’s next step up in his career. With visions of relocating to London from the coast already on the cards, Oli applied for the job and was offered the role.
Having spoken to Oli about his experience first at UKHarvest in Donnington, then to Nourish Hub, Oli told us that he has ‘...learnt a lot at UKHarvest, from how to drive a big van to how to work alongside volunteers in a professional kitchen. I have also learnt a lot about various cuisines from around the world thanks to our volunteers.’ Oli also noted that his ‘proudest moments at the Nourish Hub have been helping train volunteers and give them the confidence to seek work cooking professionally’.
One of the standout characteristics that Oli portrays is his ability to engage with volunteers at Nourish Hub. Many have shared their experience of working with him. ‘Oli is an infectious positive energy in the kitchen. His remarkable memory of all the volunteers and willingness to help anyone helps hold the large volunteering team together!’ Tom, Kitchen Assistant Volunteer, just confirming the high regard to which we all hold him. Victoria, who volunteers as Nourish Hub Front of House said, ‘Oli is a strong leader but a gentle soul, always ready to teach, listen and nurture.’
Oli is a valued member of the Nourish Hub staff who has helped shape and develop the community food hub; from the daily menu to the education and community programmes operated in Hammersmith. ‘My favourite part of my roles at UKHarvest has been working with passionate people who are trying to help support their community’ which summarises Oli’s outstanding work ethic and compassionate ethos.
To find out more about volunteering at Nourish Hub please visit https://www.nourishhub.org.uk/volunteer/.