In September 2018, Refettorio Felix launched its first Culinary Training scheme. Together, Simon Boyle, Founder of the Beyond Food Foundation, and Gregg Brown, Lecturer in Chef Apprenticeship at the University of West London, trained 13 of our guests in kitchen and hospitality skills.
Every Tuesday evening for seven weeks, the students cooked dinner from scratch using surplus food in the Refettorio kitchen and took workshops on life skills such as interview techniques and CV writing. Dishes they prepared included couscous with fish and prawns, meatballs in tomato sauce, mini chicken burgers and a creamy yogurt pudding with fruit and oat topping. The workshop was a huge success and will be followed up with a second cohort in February 2019.
During our regular day service, we welcome guests from a range of backgrounds and many are dealing with situations such as depression, substance abuse and homelessness. These issues can be either a cause or a result of long-term unemployment. Co-leader of the course and founder of the Beyond Food Foundation, Simon Boyle said: “Quite a lot of the trainees were still sleeping on the street, so to be able to turn up in the first place and contribute, and they really do contribute, is amazing.”
It has been a long-standing ambition to harness the Refettorio’s capability as a training kitchen to provide our guests with the skills to improve their employment prospects. As participant Louis, 46 said, “anyone can become homeless. It’s not just drug addicts, you could be a university professor and lose your job, can’t pay your mortgage and end up homeless.” All participants on the course worked to improve their confidence and cooking skills but also completed an accreditation in Health and Hygiene, level 2. This is a necessary qualification to undertake most professional kitchen jobs and also requires an upfront payment which for many would be difficult.
At the end of the course, we toasted our new culinary trainees at a graduation ceremony attended by friends, families and some of the people who made it possible. During the ceremony, participants received certificates, photo catalogues and a personal recipe book.
If you know someone who might be interested in joining the February 2019 cohort, please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We hope this programme will continue to grow and to offer increased employment opportunities for our guests!
Simon and I share the same philosophy of looking after people. We’re both members of the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts which at its heart is about looking after people. Giving opportunity, training, listening and mentoring. I’m so proud of what they’ve achieved.