Cookery school for disadvantaged people in Earl’s Court offers great opportunities

A group of disadvantaged people in Earl’s Court served up dishes crafted from food waste to graduate from a cookery course last week .

The seven-week masterclass was held at the St. Cuthbert’s Centre and organised by the Refettorio Felix lunch club founded by Michelin star chef Massimo Bottura.

Like the daily lunch club, the free, lottery-funded course was catered by food waste charity, the Felix Project, and was offered to homeless, long term unemployed and disadvantaged people.

Co-leader of the course and founder of the Beyond Food foundation, Simon Owen 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.”

Louis, 46, assembled mini-chicken burgers with bacon garnish as he explained he joined the course because it offered work opportunities.

He 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.

“It makes finding work incredibly difficult, but as Simon has a restaurant and is offering apprenticeships there’s that opportunity.”

Louis was evicted from his Deptford squat last month and is currently seeking accommodation, while other graduates have struggled with extended unemployment or health problems, such as Oksana, 65, who had to leave work due to a knee complication.

Course leader Gregg Brown said: “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.”

COOKING UP A STORM: Participants at the cookery school. Photo credit: Natasha Bunzl 

“The hope is that they can go on for an apprenticeship at University West London, which is what I deal with,” he added. “Or, if they complete two short courses with Beyond Food, they’ll qualify for a two year paid apprenticeship.”

The proof of the course’s success was very much in the pudding (yoghurt and berry parfaits) which the graduates proudly handed round along with red pepper and pesto soup as they talked about their future plans.

This course is planned to be the first of many with a primary focus upon enabling its students to get back on their feet and into work.

Mr Brown said: “There’s lots more we can do, but bringing people together through food and giving them those skills is a big step towards a possible career path.

“It’s quite inkeeping with Massimo’s philosophy behind his organisation Food for Soul, which is about looking after people and giving them what they need to prosper.”

Feature image shows participants on the course. Photo credit: Natasha Bunzl 

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