Each week, the apprentices learnt how to prepare one or two dishes from scratch, using surplus ingredients to create an entire menu. They also hit the books learning life skills, interview techniques and CV writing. A total of 13 apprentices graduated, gaining valuable work experience in the kitchen and completing an accreditation in Health and Hygiene Level 2.
Some were learning to cook from scratch while others such as Tina wanted to brush up on her presentation skills: “Women from the Continent already know how to cook,” she told me. Another graduate, Monserrat, said she had already been sharing her skills by volunteering at the soup kitchen at her local mosque.
Using surplus ingredients, the group brought together a selection of heart-warming recipes they had learnt during the course, which included couscous with fish and prawns, meatballs in tomato sauce, mini chicken burgers and a creamy dessert with fruit and oat topping. After the tasting, participants were presented with certificates, photo catalogues and a personal recipe book.
The seven-week course was a combined teaching effort by Chef Gregg Brown (Apprenticeship Course Leader and Lecturer in Culinary Arts at University of West London) and Chef Simon Boyle, founder of Beyond Food and Brigade.
Gregg Brown said: “My intention when devising the seven-week programme was to use only ingredients from the Felix Project in Park Royal. I head up the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts Chef Apprenticeship Programme at UWL and a core element of the curriculum is to share the Academy's philosophies on food waste management and sustainability. What was most overwhelming was the sheer volume of food available at the Felix Project each Friday. The impact of donated food, cooked by a willing and engaged group of people, really became apparent and how this model could potentially be rolled out to a much larger audience using Massimo Bottura's Food for Soul and the Refettorio name as the heart.”
Simon Boyle added: “I was really impressed by the culinary training programme held at Refettorio Felix. Despite the vulnerable position each trainee is currently in, they gave their absolute full commitment to turning up to each session with energy and willingness to engage not only in the kitchen sessions but also to the support and employment round tables that I led.
He added; “Beyond Food Foundation has offered all the trainees a position on the next Freshlife programme that starts in January. This can lead to full time employment at Brigade Bar + Kitchen, Beyond Foods social enterprise restaurant.”
Gino Grossi, Grundig Marketing Manager commented “As part of our Respect Food programme we’re delighted to partner with Food for Soul and Refettorio Felix. By supporting such projects, it can make a real difference to people’s lives, such as this latest cooking skills course which will have a long-term benefit for all involved.”
Refettorio Felix will be running another seven-week course in February 2019.