18 year old foodie, Alecia, has recently started a new college course: 'Step into Professional cookery'.  

Alecia is really enjoying her course and wanted to share her college experience to prove that it is possible to push the boundaries with a little bit of determination to overcome the health and safety issues.  "It's a new adventure for me, but I hope that the staff and people visiting the restaurant will all benefit from someone of a different ability showing what they are able to do".  

Q: How did you decide that this was the course you wanted to take?

I did Hospitality at school and wanted to carry it on.

Q: Are you at College fulltime?

Yes!! I'm there 5 days - 2 days are just 3hrs for practical lessons: cooking in the kitchen, serving front of house in the restaurant and some kitchen work.

Q: Do you have support whilst in college? How does this work?

I have a carer who looks after my personal needs, transfers etc. as well as assisting me in my kitchen & restaurant lessons. I also have a learning support assistant (LSA) for theory, maths and English lessons. The LSA scribes and reads for me, or adapts the worksheets as required.

Q: Have you made new friends since starting your course?

I sometimes see some old friends that went to my previous school and I have made new friends on my course.

Q: What about practical things like getting around in your powered chair, accessing areas of the College, using equipment, homework etc? Do you have any problems, or are there any great things that make life easier?

Getting around college is easy, I have a lift pass and accessible toilets and changing rooms (I have to change into Chef’s whites for kitchen practical lessons on Tuesdays). We've bought some special tools found via Amazon and Lakeland Plastics which have helped e.g. plastic mat to go under bowls to stop them slipping, egg-cracker, easy to use food chopper to cut veg into different shapes, automatic electric veg/fruit peeler, scales with large numbers. There are also things on the RNIB website such as talking scales. With the course you get your own set of knives which have to stay at college. I can use all of these, but the support staff get a little worried! Although I won’t be able to do that fast chopping like chefs do, I can chop in my own way.

Q: What’s your most favourite part of your day/week?

I really enjoy the Theory lessons because the tutor makes them fun. I have an app on my laptop called Join Me which means that the white board is reflected onto my computer so that I can see it more easily.

Q: What advice would you give to another teenager thinking about further education? Do you have any tips for them to bear in mind when looking at courses/colleges?

With this course the main questions were whether I could actually do the practical stuff in the kitchen. Health and safety was a big issue. My mum and I met with the college staff on several occasions before actually enrolling on the course. We also met with the college Health & Safety Officer to discuss how the wheelchair would work in the kitchen.

The biggest issue was me standing at the cooker, as the gas rings are huge and clearly safety was a priority. So they've provided me with a height adjustable table and an induction hob with grill that will sit on this. The induction hob works really well. The oven is at a wheelchair height, so I put things in and someone else gets them out for me. I've only just started lessons in the restaurant learning about front of house work, but with assistance and adaptions I think I can do everything......except for the coffee machine which is huge, hot and scary! My mum is making a copy of the menu with pictures and laminating it, so I can use it like a white board to tick what people want. Then I can go to the computer and get this logged on the system.


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