HELEN Ridgwell says “a little miracle” occurs almost every week in the kitchen of the Tasty Plate catering business.
Ms Ridgwell said that miracle happens when one of the 17 people with disabilities undertaking hospitality training at Tasty Plate reached a new level in their skills.
That growth in trainees’ skills is being matched by that of the business that will this month open its second Warrnambool kitchen.
Tasty Plate opened in January 2011 with four trainees in a former church hall in Manifold Street.
The demand for its catering and the increase in its staff since then has meant it has outgrown its original premises in little more than two years.
Tasty Plate was established by a local committee without any government funding but receives a government “fee for service” to pay for the high support needs of its trainees.
Ms Ridgwell was part of the founding committee and one of the reasons she got involved was because her son, who has a disability, wanted a job and no one would employ him. She said the 17 trainees loved their work and had to be persuaded to take leave.
Ms Ridgwell said Tasty Plate’s success was about young people with disabilities “having a go”.
“Give them the opportunity and they make the most of it,” she said.
While the business has three full-time chefs, three casual chefs and two casual kitchen attendants to lead the trainees, Ms Ridgwell said she was impressed with the way the trainees mentored each other.
“Those with low support needs become role models for those with higher support needs.”
She said this month’s expansion to the Archie Graham Community Centre kitchen would enable the business to eventually increase the number of trainees to up to 30.
Among the business’s future goals are to later this year expand into event catering and place some trainees in employment in mainstream hospitality places.