24 May 2024

A new restaurant in local school, Ganton, has emerged with a mission that goes beyond serving delectable dishes. This establishment, aptly named ‘Chop and Change’, is not just a place for food enthusiasts, but also a beacon of hope and opportunity for students with severe learning disabilities (SLD). Just 6% of adults with SLD are in employment or voluntary work; this important partnership between the team at The Deep and Ganton School, is working to reshape the narrative of what it means to be inclusive in the business world.

Created by Teacher and Industries Coordinator at Ganton School, Asa, the comprehensive Industry Chefs in Schools Project is tailored to the unique needs of students with learning disabilities. Designed to be inclusive and adaptive, the program ensures that each student receives the support they need to succeed. It covers various aspects of the restaurant business, including:

  • Culinary Skills: Under the mentorship of Chefs in school and the school staff, students learn the basics of cooking, from chopping vegetables to creating simple dishes. The emphasis is on building confidence and competence in the kitchen.
  • Customer Service: Students are trained in front-of-house operations, including taking orders, serving food, and interacting with customers. This aspect of the training helps them develop communication skills and confidence in social interactions.
  • Workplace Etiquette: Understanding the dynamics of a professional environment is crucial. The training includes lessons on punctuality, teamwork, workplace behaviour, and preparing students for future employment opportunities.
  • Life Skills: Beyond the restaurant-specific skills, the program also focuses on essential life skills such as time management, problem-solving, and personal responsibility.

The Deep’s Development Chef, Jon, said “Supporting these students on a pathway to work has provided a very rewarding experience, in watching their confidence grow and skills develop. Their professional kitchen set up is first class; from Christmas lunches to fine dining, the students have excelled themselves. Our team have visited the school’s Chop & Change restaurant on several occasions, working closely with the students to plan and prepare events from start to finish - menus, staging, cooking skills, service, and not forgetting the washing up!”

Jon added “In particular, this scheme is something I feel very passionate about, as it resonates on a personal level to me. After sustaining a spinal cord injury 6 years ago, I was told that I would ‘never chef again’. This, however, actually gave me the drive and determination to get back into the catering field. I believe that work should be accessible for all, regardless of ability.”

More recently, The Deep provided the opportunity for Chop and Change to ‘pop up’ for the day in Halfway Café. The students, with assistance from The Deep’s Catering team, executed a three course formal dinner to a variety of guests from local organisations, which demonstrated their achievements so far. This exciting opportunity has helped the students gain new skills and develop the confidence to put them into practice.

Students from Ganton School have also participated individually in The Deep’s work experience program, and are delighted to now have a student that is currently in their employment. The Deep look forward to continuing to work with the school and supporting more young adults with SLD on their journey into employment.