Top chef tells how he fed thousands of NHS staff in first months of lockdown

Ten Hill Place hotel gave rooms and accommodation to NHS workers.
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A top Capital chef has revealed how his hotel fed thousands of NHS workers during the first months of lockdown.

Ten Hill Place hotel in Surgeons Quarter provided more than 2,000 free nights of accommodation and food in March and April.

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Alan Dickson, Executive Chef at Surgeons Quarter, explained how the hotel, which is run by the commercial arm of the Royal College of Surgeons, catered for the unexpected new guests.

Alan DicksonAlan Dickson
Alan Dickson

Early on, Mr Dickson, 31, decided to strip the usual menus back, focusing on ensuring the team had enough tinned goods, flour, and yeast to last them six weeks.

The Edinburgh local said staff got to know the NHS workers staying with them, and focussed on providing homely meals of the type they were missing with their families.

Mr Dickson said: “Working in the kitchen was instantly different – there were three chefs on rotation with only one working at a time. We brought in new health and safety precautions immediately, we couldn’t take any risks with the NHS staff who were staying with us.

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“Like most people, we didn’t really know what we were about to face at the start of the pandemic. We knew fresh fish and meats would be a little more difficult to get, so we redesigned the menu around what we had available.

“As we got to know NHS workers by name and regularly caught up with them after their hectic shifts, we began to appreciate how much many of them were missing their home comforts, so we changed our menus accordingly.

“We served lots of chicken curry, lasagnes – the type of home cooked meals you’d have with your family. It meant a lot to us to be able to provide some sort of support to the people at the very front of this pandemic.”

The hotel, which is owned by Surgeons Quarter, the commercial arm of The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, took the decision to provide more than 2,000 nights of free accommodation and meals for frontline medics working at Edinburgh’s hospitals.

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Mr Dickson was thrilled with the small part Ten Hill Place staff played in providing respite to hardworking frontline staff.

He said: “There wasn’t much we could do, but like everyone else we wanted to help in the one way we could – with our food and expertise. Our guests were fantastic, they were so grateful for the opportunity to stay nearby the hospitals between shifts.

“Our suppliers were also brilliant at communicating with us. We worked with one amazing butcher and one fruit and veg supplier – Campbells Prime Meat and Mark Murphy Fruit and Veg – who were able to source what we needed.

“We ended up sourcing around 200kg of sausages, and 200kg of bacon for cooked breakfasts – as well as providing healthy packs our medics could take to work, with fruit, yoghurt and water bottles.”

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Mr Dickson joined Ten Hill Place in 2014 and was awarded Hotel Chef of the Year 2017 at the Scottish Hotel Awards.

The hotel reopened on 15 July in accordance with Scottish Government guidance.

Cafe 1505 and Drinks & Dining at Ten Hill Place Hotel are both taking part in the Eat Out to Help Out scheme for the duration of August.

Guests can receive 50% off their bill in the cafe or the restaurant, to a maximum value of £10, at any time from Monday – Wednesday.

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Profits from the Hotel go towards the College’s charitable objectives of improving access to surgery and saving lives worldwide.

Ten Hill Place Hotel gave a total of 2,137 free room nights to NHS staff working in Edinburgh’s hospitals between March-May this year.

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