Beresford Street Kitchen is a café with a conscience in more ways than one.
It’s run by charitable trust Aspire, which aims to give disabled islanders a helping hand in society.
It opened in August to great acclaim - and now, four months later, Express caught up with the team for the UN Day of Disability and Enable Jersey’s Week of Celebration to find out how the initiative is changing lives.
Across its kitchens, tills and even dedicated printing workshop, which stocks the retail shop, Beresford Street Kitchen employs those with learning difficulties.
Video: Express met Beresford Street Kitchen workers Cassie, Christy, Ryan and Leroy, who spoke about what they've learned from the experience of working there.
People with disabilities, manager Gabby Elmers explained, often miss out on opportunities due to a lack of training and/or expertise.
This café-come-social enterprise aims to plug that gap and provide the initial ‘stepping stone’ to future employment through three kinds of placement.
There’s 'pathway', a dedicated work experience programme, which allows people to try out different areas to work out where they might best fit in while picking up some skills along the way.
After that, they can progress onto a traineeship, which involves three shifts a week either in the busy café or behind the scenes printing staff t-shirts, mugs and items to be sold in the shop or cooking up treats to tantalise islanders’ tastebuds.
Pictured: Some of the homemade goodies on sale at the shop.
Apprentices, meanwhile, can gain accredited hospitality and catering training in partnership with Highlands College over a period of 12 to 24 months.
Leroy, who recently joined the Beresford Street Kitchen team, told Express that he was enjoying his training so far, and learning new skills on the job.
“I prepare like fruit pots, salad pots during the morning and some bacon and sausages… They’re training us to be independent but we do work in teams,” he commented.
While he said that main courses were his favourite - pizza in particular - he’s also recently come up with his own dessert. Smores with a peanut butter twist.
Pictured: The team show off the desserts they've made.
“I cook for my mum every night,” he said, adding that she was impressed with what he’d come up with.
Ryan, meanwhile, works on the store’s front line.
Having been involved since the beginning, he’s picked up creative skills in printing t-shirts and arranging food and retail displays, and can make a mean coffee.
He flourishes most when chatting to customers, however, warmly greeting each one with his natural charm at the till.
Pictured: Ryan, who has been involved since the beginning, quickly settled into his role and is enjoying it.
He currently works three days a week, and has learned to balance his work obligations with family time and his much-loved hobbies of football and working out at the gym.
But this social enterprise doesn’t just benefit those with learning difficulties. Gabby hopes they’ll be able to take their skills to the rest of the island, and use their potential to help the island’s struggling hospitality sector to flourish again.
Then there’s the eco dimension - the kitchen partners with food waste sharing app Olio, and will often channel ‘Ready Steady Cook’ by using produce that would otherwise be thrown away by islanders to cook up the next day’s menu.
Above all, Gabby hopes the initiative will “break down barriers” for abled people too. “Many people don’t know how to communicate [with people with disabilities],” she commented. But she hopes that the regular interaction between staff and customers will help "shatter the stigma."
Pictured: A "bumper crop" from Olio left the team with a challenge - what to make?
So far, the St Helier café is going from strength to strength - it recently got its five-star Eat Safe rating, there's rarely a seat free at lunchtime, and Gabby says it’s become somewhat of a “hub” for parents with disabled or autistic children during the daytime due to its understanding atmosphere and the fact that they know that there’ll be people at hand who can support them with any difficulties.
The retail side is also starting to shine, with festive hampers on the go as Christmas comes into season.
Looking back on the week, Gabby commented: "Beresford Street Kitchen were delighted to take part in last week's celebrations. We had a great time on Wednesday, staying open late for the Access for All evening. Barclays joined us with their accessibility kit and Mencap Social Club entertained customers and passers by singing carols and blasting snow from the first floor windows! A number of members of staff filled out Enable profiles to celebrate their interests, achievements, feelings and hopes for the future and we hung these up around the café with portrait photos. Our customers really engaged with the profiles and on Saturday the crew handed out free goody bags to kids and explained why we were celebrating and we had a lucky dip for grown ups. The profiles were so successful we will be adding to them this week and keeping them up until Christmas!"
While the team have only been going for a few months, the team have already built up strong bonds and enjoy the camaraderie of the kitchen. When asked the best bit about working at Beresford Street Kitchen, quick as a flash, Leroy responds: "The company."
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