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Aspiring chef: 'Small or tall, I'm the same standard as everyone else in the kitchen'

Mark Reynolds, vice chair of the Craft Guild of Chefs, says: "We have the flexibility to embrace every walk of life." 20 June 2022 Health & WellbeingReal Life Share this:

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Louis Makepeace, who is very passionate about cooking, thinks there are lots of simple things restaurants and kitchens can do to make the profession more accessible.

"You've got to understand the person you're taking on, and understand what the person needs and how they feel comfortable," Louis, who has a form of dwarfism, says. "Then adapt around it. There's a million things you can do to adapt to any circumstance."

This year's Accessibility in Hospitality survey from a UK hospitality research company, which questioned 250 people, suggests 71% believe more should be done to bring attention to the lack of accessibility for disabled people in the hospitality industry.

Mark Reynolds, vice chair of the Craft Guild of Chefs - the main professional association for chefs in the UK - says: "My brigade [kitchen staff], like all of them, is a family and we are very protective of the team at every level, from first job to head chef.

"The unique thing about our industry is that we have the flexibility to embrace every walk of life, and with the right training and support, the kitchen can be a great place for everyone to thrive and build a rewarding career." 'Everyone adapted really well'

BBC/JACK BARNES "It was a brilliant experience," says Louis, about competing on the BBC Three cooking show Hungry For It. The show, hosted by Stacey Dooley alongside mentors and judges Big Zuu and Kayla Greer, gives aspiring cooks a chance to skill up and put their talent to the test.

Louis, from Worcester, has achondroplasia a genetic condition that is the most common type of dwarfism - or restricted growth - in the UK.

Louis says he's faced discrimination because of the condition. When he was younger, Louis was allegedly told he was a "safety risk" when he was applying to attend a catering course.

"Every day I wake up, I'm going to face some form of discrimination. Every time I walk out my door, I'll get either abuse or some form of negativity thrown my way.

"I've had people try and beat me up. I've had attacks. I've had marks on my arm because people have been grabbing me. I've been scared for my life at points."

But Louis says he always tries to have a positive approach to life. "Dwarfism was thrown at me. I have to just learn to deal with it and get the most positive energy out of it. I've always just wanted people to just treat me like everyone else."

Louis, who is especially inspired by Italian cooking, found that the Hungry For It kitchen could be easily adapted to his needs.

"Everyone at Hungry For It adapted really well and treated me like a contestant, like everyone else.

"In my case, I just needed a little bit more height, so they got a block which took about 10 minutes to build and then I was raised up a little bit. Then I had a station I could work at so I could reach everything on the countertop. "I'm still at the same standard as everyone else in the kitchen regardless of if I'm small or tall. I still was doing knockout dishes. I didn't need anyone's help."

'There are people that don't entirely understand my autism'


Outside of the Hungry For It kitchen, Jeremiah Josey's love for cooking started with his grandmother. "She's what inspired me to want to cook and bake because I would always go over to her house and make some scrumptious pastries and goodies with her," he says.

Jeremiah - who attends the Culinary Institute of America in New York - is autistic and although he says he hasn't faced any discrimination because of it, he worries that some people won't understand him.

"I love being a pastry chef so much because I just love pastries and sweets. I have a huge sweet tooth. And I really enjoy the techniques and learning everything I can.

"But honestly I do feel that there are people in this world that don't entirely understand my autism and how certain things work a little differently for me because I have autism."

Some of the adaptations Jeremiah has at the culinary school include: extra tutoring so he can practise his techniques, more time for taking tests, a peer mentor and more education about autism for the chefs to help them understand how Jeremiah can perform best in the kitchen.

Jeremiah adds: "My advice for people with disabilities is, 'Don't let autism or any disability stop you from pursuing your dreams or achieving anything you set your mind to.'"

Jeremiah, who has written a book about his experiences as a black man with autism, says his favourite things to bake are cheesecakes, pumpkin pies, blueberry pies and cookies.

He adds: "One day in the future, I would like to open up my own pastry shop that will be famous for cakes, milkshakes, cheesecake and cookies. And I also hope to have my own cooking show."

'Gained confidence and independence' CONTRIBUTOR IMAGE "I've been into cooking for quite a few years now," William, from Paignton, Devon, says. "I just really enjoy it and especially now because of all the pieces of equipment that we can use as well."

William is living with cerebral palsy - the name for a group of lifelong conditions that affect movement and coordination - and is a wheelchair user. He says he's gained a lot of independence through assistive technology, especially in the kitchen.

"I like cooking all sorts of things. I can cut up a lot of the ingredients that I couldn't do quite so easily before." Some of the assistive technology he uses includes: a cooking hob and a sink that can be raised up and down to allow his wheelchair underneath, sticky mats and a cutting machine.

Rob, who manages the service called United Response that supports William, says: "We've got lots of equipment here for Will and others to use who may not have mobility or use of both hands, so it's great to see Will building that confidence in the kitchen.

"Will has gained so much: his skills, his confidence, his enthusiasm to try new things again."

William, who enjoys making homemade lasagne with fresh pasta, says he'd be keen to volunteer or work in a kitchen. "I know Will's got the enthusiasm and the dedication and the commitment to cook and have a go at anything in life," Rob adds.


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