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St Stephen’s Church volunteer Kemi Buraimoh is ‘one of Britain’s top 3 cooks’

PUBLISHED: 15:36 17 May 2017

Kemi Buraimoh, catering co-ordinator at The Manna at St Stephen's Church in Canonbury. Picture: Polly Hancock

Kemi Buraimoh, catering co-ordinator at The Manna at St Stephen's Church in Canonbury. Picture: Polly Hancock

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For 10 years, Kemi Buraimoh has volunteered her cooking skills for homeless people. Now she could win a national award. She chats to the Gazette.

Kemi Buraimoh, catering co-ordinator at The Manna at St Stephen's Church in Canonbury. Picture: Polly HancockKemi Buraimoh, catering co-ordinator at The Manna at St Stephen's Church in Canonbury. Picture: Polly Hancock

There are so many good things about The Manna – a shelter for homeless and isolated people in St Stephen’s Church – and Kemi Buraimoh is one of the best.

Already famous at the Canonbury Road church for her mashed potato and rice pudding, 53-year-old Kemi could soon have an even bigger profile.

She’s made the final three of the BBC’s cook of the year competition, for cooks who are innovative in a hospital, care home, school or workplace.

The ceremony is on June 8. Catering co-ordinator Kemi reflected: “Somebody put my name forward. I had no idea about the competition and I wasn’t expecting anything, so it was a big surprise.”

As well as meals for vulnerable people, The Manna also offers recreation, showers and advice to its clients.

Kemi, of Holloway, first volunteered in the kitchen 10 years ago – and she has done so three times a week ever since.

She said: “At the beginning, I was a stay-at-home mum who liked cooking, but I wanted to do something in the community when this opportunity came up.

“I love the cooking, I love mixing with other people in the community, and I love to help out.

“What is great about The Manna is that it gives people purpose beyond just eating food. You see that with the activities, like gardening, that they have on Wednesdays.”

Kemi, who also volunteers at St Mary Magdalene Church in Holloway Road, stressed the job is often a challenge: “There can be 150 people here on a Tuesday, meaning it can be very stressful and hot in the kitchen.

“But we have a lot of volunteers who come in and help, which really takes the pressure off. And anyway, I prefer busy days to when it’s quiet and there’s less to do, like Fridays.”

As someone who gives so much to others, what does she get out of it? “I just enjoy coming here. There may be days where I have challenges at home but this is something that can help calm me down.

“People look forward to seeing me . That’s the best part of the job.”

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