Gregory has zest for life as a chef

Gregory decorates a customer's Pavlova
Gregory decorates a customer's Pavlova

LURGAN man Gregory Burns has a real Zest for life and is following his dreams to get a full time job in catering.

He is one of 15 adults with learning disabilities who are studying catering and customer service skills through their work placements at a Gilford coffee shop.

The men and women who have placements at Zest Coffee Shop are supported to access services in the community so that they can become more independent.

This is one of the proposals in the recent Transforming Your Care review which will shape the future of health and social care here. The placements are part of the Daytime Opportunities programme which offers alternatives to traditional day care at social education centres.

Gregory Burns has a four day placement at Zest. “I prepare the vegetables and side salads for the lunch menus. I like being busy and cleaning the kitchen. I would eventually like to get a job in catering.”

David Stewart is also from Lurgan and has a placement every Wednesday. He works in the kitchen and helps out with washing windows.

“I like getting food ready, drying dishes and tidying up when everyone leaves.”

Craigavon woman Christina McAlinden said: “I love working at Zest. I prepare vegetables and salads for main courses and garnishes, make soups and bake desserts. I like organising people in the kitchen!”

Yvonne Gamble from Dollingstown was a facility support worker at nearby Bannvale House but when she was made redundant, she took up a place at Zest under the Daytime Opportunities programme and travels by bus to her work.

“Baking was my favourite job and I really liked being busy in the kitchen. Now Joanne and I are front of house staff and we make sure customers are served quickly. I like looking after our customers and making sure the stock in the gift shop looks nice.”

Lurgan man Michael McCluskey drives to Gilford from home. “I enjoy baking and cooking at Zest. I like working with the team as they are friendly.”

Daytime Opportunities Worker Julie Jones adds: “All our service users make a valuable contribution to the coffee shop and everyone has an important role to play in the smooth running of the gift and coffee shop.

“We encourage service users to be independent by travelling by taxi or public transport to their work, and to attend other activities like local Gateway Clubs and the Gender Group. Many of them have completed the NVQ Level 1 in Catering and Hospitality.

“Zest has a top rating of ‘5’ in the Food Standards Agency’s food hygiene ratings which means it was found to have ‘very good’ standards.”