Cooking skills no barrier to dis-ability

31 July 2017

Once a week, Canterbury League Club Head Chef Stephanie Azar sharpens her knives and starts running the group of people in front of her through the night’s instructions and recipes.

On tonight’s menu is sweet potato wedges and beef burger patties.

Sounds easy enough however what separates this new group from her usual cluster of sous chefs is the fact that she is training people with intellectual disabilities basic cooking skills and easy recipes for them to replicate at home.

Participate Australia, formerly known as FRANS, teamed up with Canterbury League Club to deliver this program over the next six weeks. In total six participants will be put through their paces in the Club’s commercial kitchen and receive mentorship from Stephanie.

“We knew our participants love cooking and we wanted offer them the chance to learn new skills by working in a commercial kitchen with a professional chef. They can then take these skills home and help their families in the kitchen or build on skills if they wished to be more independent,” said Andrea Natoli, Manager at Participate Australia, which is a community-based charity which supports 380 individuals with intellectual disabilities and their families.

Heads bowed and paying attention attentively, the group get straight back to work chopping, mashing, mixing, cooking and baking. So far they have learned how to make bread and butter pudding, parmigiana and sweet potato mash, and coming up next, noodle salad and pasta bake.

“It is a great initiative – I’ve enjoyed spending time with the participants every week and sharing some of my secret recipes and techniques. They are really excited to be in the kitchen and are keen to cook meals to share with their families and show off what they’ve learned,” said Stephanie Azar.