When Gail Sequiera moved with her husband Kevin to run Borderers guest house in Brecon during April 2017, she left behind a lucrative 10 year career in the oil industry in search of a life on her own terms. The B&B had seemed a great opportunity to be more in control of her own destiny while being closer to Kevin’s family.
The reality has been far better than they could have anticipated. Although the old building has had its fair share of problems the skills and kindness of local tradesmen has smoothed the process of renovating considerably. From the start Gail wanted to support other local businesses and the local community - ‘ if it’s not available locally then we don’t have it!’ she explained ‘but it is amazing what you can find here. Camden Stores in particular have managed to provide me with purple sweet potatoes, plantains, mangoes and cherimoya among other things!”
The pandemic could have been the end of their business but Gail hit upon the idea of making vegetarian and vegan sustainable meals using locally sourced or foraged produce and recipes from around the world once a week. This came to be known as ‘The Comfort Kitchen’ and catered for friends -old and new!
‘It was a way of connecting with the rest of the world at a time when everyone was confined to home and kept me busy thinking up menus and checking finer points of recipes with my family and friends living in distant parts. I’m privileged that my old job gave me the opportunity to travel and live in many parts of the world that I would never have been able to see otherwise. I was lucky enough to meet many wonderful people that I am fortunate to remain friends with and who introduced me to the delicacies of their own homelands. Thanks to my parents, I am of course very familiar with Indian cuisine, having been brought up in various parts of the Indian subcontinent. Being able to pick my mother’s brains for cooking tips during the last year was an added bonus and helped to make the distance between us seem shorter. ‘ Gail explained.
‘My experience in the oil industry showed me the true value of our planet and it’s limited resources so in this new venture I chose to use local produce (as far as possible), compostable packaging and mostly plant based ingredients in my cooking’.
‘ I was brought up to feel that sharing good fortune is important and our true strength lies in our community. So having found a way to earn some money during these difficult times I have tried to help charities close to my heart by giving a percentage of the profits from several menus to theatre Brycheiniog , Brecon Dog rescue and Powys people First. I also tried to ensure that I didn’t compete with other local food producers by restricting myself to food provision one evening a week and having a limit upon numbers I could serve‘.
As lockdown restrictions eased in Wales, Gail planned to stop making meals and concentrate upon rebuilding the B&B business with Kevin but then the devastating second wave of Covid 19 hit India and news of horrific suffering and desperate need began trickling out. As Gail says ‘I felt so powerless and far from home. I never expected to bring the Comfort Kitchen out of retirement so soon. However, once again due to the pandemic, I am in dire need of some comfort and my kitchen!’
‘Soon after I announced my last menu in April , disturbing news began to filter out of India. I very nearly packed up and moved back to wait out the pandemic with my family. Then realising the foolishness of that idea, I took my mums advice, stuck my head firmly in the sand and pretended nothing was happening, because the feeling of helplessness was too much to bear. My parents are fit but very sociable people. I can’t help worrying about them and just wanting to be with them’.
‘Finally on Mayday weekend, after conversations with three very wise women, I put my big girl pants on and decided to do something useful instead of wallowing. I decided to create an ‘Eating for India menu’ featuring recipes from the four points of the compass as well as mango kulfi, to tie them all together’.
Gail spent considerable time checking upon who was best placed to make sure that any money she could raise would be used rapidly to help ease suffering in India. The British Asian Trust seemed to be a good fit and so 100% of the profits from Gail’s ‘Eating for India ‘menu will go to their Oxygen for India Appeal.
The British Asian Trust BAT in consultation with the Indian and UK governments, advisors and programme partners in India has worked out a package of support to complement what industry, government and other charities were doing to help. It was decided that the biggest help at present was to get as many ‘oxygen concentrators’ to hospitals as quickly as possible. Oxygen concentrators are alternative devices to oxygen cylinders – while cylinders contain a finite amount of oxygen , a concentrator filters oxygen from the air and delivers it to the patient. BAT’s local partner in India, Swasth is providing a comprehensive end-to-end process of identifying where the greatest need is, sourcing the equipment and transporting it safely to its destination. The British Asian Trust has also managed to secure match funding for some donations which means that however much Gail is able to raise from her cooking and any awareness raising , it may be increased by the generosity of other supporters.
If you’d like to help please give directly to the British Asian Trust [
Or donations can be left at the Borderers guest house on the Watton to be sent on by Gail.
Or you can order via The Comfort Kitchen on Facebook
Photos show samples of Gails cooking and Gail, Kevin and Trixie on holiday. The menu for India is above