The fourth-generation chief of the family-run Goring Hotel is a busy man. But much of his time is now devoted to the Hotel School, a project giving vulnerable Londoners the skills they need to work in the capital’s finest hotels and restaurants
Jeremy Goring, sat in the bar of his own Goring Hotel, has eyes everywhere. Impeccably turned out, much like the room, not much escapes the attention of the man behind one of the world’s famous hotels.
So perhaps then it’s no surprise that a man who can spot a glass out of place from across a crowded salon turned his thoughts more than five years ago to one of London’s biggest problems – homelessness.
That’s where Hotel School comes in – founded by Goring and Mick Clarke, chief executive of The Passage, the capital’s largest resource and centre for homeless and vulnerable people.
“I was sitting over there with a gin and tonic with Mick. This hotel has worked with The Passage before my time, but the purpose of this gin and tonic was to ask what the hell can we do that’s a bit more meaningful for us than donating things and helping out here and there,” the likeable Goring tells me – over a sparkling water, this time.
After kicking around some ideas, Goring proposed starting a school: one that could take vulnerable people that had come into contact with The Passage, teach them skills in the industry he knows best, and see them prosper in full-time employment.
“The best way to learn it is to do it. It turned out nobody had really done it in that way,” Goring says. Since that fateful gin and tonic, the School has helped support hundreds of homeless and vulnerable people into long-standing work in hospitality, with hands held along the way as people move into full-time work.
“I had the connections in the hospitality industry, but I knew nothing about teaching. But I spoke to people at Westminster Kingsway College, and a woman called Veronique Bonnefoy said she’d do it with us. We built a space in the basement of The Passage.”
Of that first cohort, only around 50 per cent ‘graduated’ from Hotel School. That pass rate is now up above 80 per cent, with most in full-time work. Some who have gone through the three-month training programme work in Carousel or The Ritz; others in Nobu or, indeed, The Goring. Those individuals are mentored through their entry into work; some have gone on to start their own street-food enterprises.
Hotel School’s employment partners, which takes in most of London’s five-star hotels, best restaurants and even Pret a Manger’s foundation, have all been willing partners in Goring’s adventure. The results are why.
“One guy had been out of work for thirty years. It took us three years to find him full-time work – and he got a medal from Prince William recently. That meant a lot,” he says.
The School has now outgrown its improvised kitchen in The Passage, using space in Westminster Kingsway College itself. Like all London businesses, space to expand is hard to find, but Goring firmly has his eyes on expansion in an industry he clearly loves.
“I think hospitality is quite a good thing for humanity,” he says with understatement. “You meet people from everywhere, different backgrounds, different ages, all the kinds of human you can have. They all have a place somewhere in a hotel or a bar.
“For that reason, I think, we feel like pirates on a ship, and we’ll support each other.”
Goring has enough on his plate, running a luxury hotel in the middle of a tough time for the global economy. But Hotel School, it is clear, is very much a passion project – much like hospitality at large.
Meet Yogi: A Hotel School graduate
Yogi fled Sri Lanka in 2009 due to the political situation there and was granted asylum in the UK. He had to leave his wife and new-born daughter behind. Yogi suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder as well as long-term physical injuries due to the torture he had gone through.
He was referred to Hotel School by the charity, Freedom from Torture in October 2020. Although Yogi was determined to find work, due to his back and knee injuries, he was not able to work in a physical demanding job. However, he did not give up and used his amazing cooking skills to become a Chef Trainer at Migrateful Charity in early 2021.
This is where the idea of opening “Yogi’s Sri Lankan Kitchen” was born. Hotel School referred him to The Entrepreneurial Refugee Network (TERN) a charity that supports refugee entrepreneurs to start their own business. Yogi as always gave 100% to learn as much as he could and kept improving his English.
Finally at the beginning of 2021, Yogi was reunited with his wife and daughter after 14 years of being apart, a moment that he will never forget. When Yogi heard about the new opening of our partner café TRAMPOLINE he immediately wanted to get involved. In no time he became a key part of shaping the food menu.
After 6 months, Yogi is now fulfilling his dream of working in a hotel. He started a full time position as a Chef de Partie at Park Plaza Waterloo. Yogi has gone from losing everything including the most important thing in his life, his family, to building a new and happy life together in the UK.