A TALENTED young man talent spotted by a big name chef after winning a prestigious competition is spearheading efforts to cook hearty meals for NHS workers at Derriford Hospital.

Rich Henderson, 26, is working with charity Food4Heroes, whose Westcountry hub is in Inwardleigh, on the hurculean effort which will see him and fellow chefs prepare cook-chill meals to be transported to the hospital each day.

Rich, from Yelverton and a former Tavistock College student, has arranged for the use of the kitchens at the City College Plymouth, where he himself trained, and garnered support from many local chefs including John Hooker of The Cornish in Tavistock, who taught Rich everything he knew as a teenager.

It represents a bit of a change from his career working for celebrity chef Tom Aikens in his new restaurant Muse in Belgravia, which has had to shut in the current crisis. However, Rich said he was looking forward to the challenge.

Rich said: ‘So many great chefs are willing to help. So far I have had 20 people sign up for it. The idea is for us to cook in the kitchens at City College Plymouth because they are quite big premises. We are planning to do meals in takeaway boxes that can then be transported to the hospital.’

He said Food4Heroes were already providing meals at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital.

‘My original post on Facebook said 300 meals a day but I believe that is what they are supplying at the RD&E and the Plymouth hospital is bigger than that that, so we could be doing more.

‘It will be simple home-cooked food but it will be something to fill up the staff — food for heroes. The charity wants to give back to the local businesses and so will let us use suppliers who would usually be supplying the restaurants, that are all shut at the moment. The suppliers are out of business as much as everybody else.’

Rich said he was delighted John Hooker from The Cornish in Tavistock would be joining him.

‘He gave me my first job when I was 16,’ said Rich. ‘He is a great guy and says he and his brigade are up for it. I just need to figure out from Derriford how many we will be cooking for.’

Rich has also got on board the sponsors of the Young Chef Young Waiter Competition, Arla Pro and Magnum, where Rich was named young chef of the year after taking part in the autumn. Judge chef Theo Randall said at the time that Rich ‘was going to go along way in the kitchen’ praising his calmness under pressure and describing his final dishes as ‘flawless’. Anyone who would like to help can contact Rich on [email protected]