Wooden Spoon-funded kitchen helps cafe to cater for those with additional needs

THE sign above its door may read “The Usual Place”, but an innovative community cafe helping to transform the lives of young people with additional needs in the Scottish town of Dumfries is proving to be anything but ordinary.

The sustained success enjoyed by the popular cafe, which provides citizenship and employment opportunities to young people with additional needs, would not have been possible without Wooden Spoon Scotland’s help in firing up its stoves, according to its co-founder Heather Hall.

Reflecting on the all-important ingredient provided to the project by the children’s charity of rugby, the Usual Place’s chief executive officer said: “The funding given to us by Wooden Spoon Scotland enabled us to have a commercial kitchen that would not have been possible otherwise. 

“It was really important to have such a facility because when our young people leave us and move on to work in a hospitality-related environment they will meet the same equipment, utensils and resources they have learned to use in The Usual Place. “Things might be in a different place but they will have the confidence to use them and be able to comply to the requirements common of a commercial provider. 

”Explaining how 14 to 26-year-olds engaging with the project operate the cafe, serve customers, prepare food and work towards Scottish Vocational Qualifications and other industry-recognised accreditations, Heather added: “Over the past four years our young people have successfully moved into lots of different business environments and that would not have been the case without the Wooden Spoon Kitchen – it has been essential to that delivery.”

Aside from helping to bridge the gap between young people with additional needs and members of the public, and enhancing its graduates chances of future employment, The Usual Place is serving up skills which will have a long-term impact on the daily lives of those it supports.

“One of the great by-products of the Wooden Spoon Kitchen is it gives our young people the knowledge and understanding to live independently,” Heather continued. “If they can make a pot of soup or meal in our kitchen, then can make it in their own home. They get the know-how and skills to feed themselves, and feed themselves well.”

Such is the quality of food produced by The Usual Place’s workforce, it is not only increasing the venue’s popularity and profitability. In addition to culinary commendations, the cafe is being held up as a model of best practice and blueprint for future projects.

“We have received lots of visits from other organisations and agencies,” Heather concluded. “Our young people have been working with researchers at Glasgow University to see what it is that works so well at The Usual Place and why it works so that the model can be transferred to other sectors.” 

If you would like to get involved with Wooden Spoon Scotland and help local vulnerable children and young people in the local area, please click here.