Saturday, October 4, 2008


What follows is not a new idea, but it is a GREAT idea.

We were the first to do exactly this in 1970 when The X-Kalay Foundation (residential treatment centre for addicts, alcoholics, ex-cons & others) ran restaurants in vancouver, Winnipeg and Salt Spring Island.

Then, for years there was a wonderful and similar program running a restaurant at Broadway and Fir, training and employing addicts and street kids. That program was starved out of business by government funders.

Daughter Sara has just bought a new cookbook, by Jamie Oliver. She drew my attention to the author's short page about his community project, Fifteen, which you may well have heard about. In case you have not, though, you might like to read the article which I'll type below, in the hope you might like to post it on your blog...with credit to source, which I'll include.
Why that suggestion? Because it might just persuade some of our political blockheads that there really are better options than here goes --
A little chat about Fifteen
Many people still talk about Fifteen as though it was just a part of the Jamie's Kitchen television series from a few years ago. But Fifteen is going from strength to strength! So let me tell you what's been going on since the TV cameras left. We are on our fifth intake of students in London, our third intake of students in Amsterdam and, as I write this, we've just opened a restaurant in Cornwall and are about to open one in Melbourne. So pretty soon there will be four amazing restaurants offering thousands of customers a great experience, and offering hundreds of young people the chance of a lifetime.
The idea behind Fifteen is pretty simple - every year we give a unique opportunity to a group of young people to become professional chefs. The kids we take on have had a bit of a hard time and could do with a break. Many of them are homeless, have been raised in difficult circumstances, have spent time in prison or gone off the rails and got into drink and drugs. But at Fifteen we believe that we can inspire them to break habits and believe in themselves to become incredibly passionate chefs.
All our students attend catering college before working in the restaurant kitchen, where they learn what it takes to cook in a high-pressure environment. They're taken on regular sourcing trips, to see some of the amazing things that our suppliers are up to, and to give them a first-hand experience of where the incredible fresh ingredients used in the Fifteen kitchen come from. To me, making that connection between the food they cook, and the inspirational people that produce it, is a real part of the magic of Fifteen.
But that's not all. It may sound a bit corny but I see Fifteen as a family - a place for students to feel safe and appreciated. Students get all the support they need when it comes to their housing issues, debt and other personal problems. So when they're in the kitchen, cooking for the guests or learning from the professionals, they can focus on that 100 per cent.
The students do work at some of the best restaurants in the world, alongside exceptional chefs. When they graduate and go on to work in the industry, we are always there to offer them help when they need it. This is why we have recently set up Fifteen Ventures, to provide help with the financial and business side of things for graduates who want to run their own restaurants. I believe that pretty soon our students' presence in the restaurant industry will make a real difference, and there will be more professional kitchens that are run like a family, not a military boot camp.
I want to finish by thanking you for buying this book. Every penny of my profit from it is going back to Fifteen and will, without a doubt, benefit the students for years and years to come. The proceeds will get more disadvantaged young people, in cities all over the world, out of their rut and into cooking. So thanks, guys, for buying this book and making that happen. If you want to find out more about what we do, are interested in being a students, would like to come to any of our restaurants, or even feel inspired to trust us with a donation, go to
So there you have it, David. It occurs to me that a project like this would be a natural for the North Vancouver Youth Centre - a project that. after it had helped about 75 kids to climb back on the right track, had its funding cut by the Campbell government. To its credit, Council of the District of North Vancouver took up the slack for one year, to allow the Centre time to find other sources of funding. I'm not sure of the current status.
All of that said, you don't need me to tell you that it doesn't need to be cooking that helps these kids, nor does it even need to be kids. It could be construction, writing or medicine, and it could be not kids but adults that are helped. What it does take is a government that gives a damn, so that people like Jamie Oliver stand a chance of getting this type of project off the ground...and a government that doesn't waste our money on dopey ideas like Insite - pun intended.


Anonymous said...

One sour note; if people are on drugs or homeless, they are at risk for diseases making them unsuitable for working in the restaurant business.

David Berner said...


re: your sour note.

I'm afraid you may not have understood what you just read.

The people who run programs like this (And I am one such person, having ru exactly this kind of program for 10 years)understand fully hygeine and cleanliness and addictions.

That's the whole point.

Of course, Step one is getting Clean and Sober.

You don't set people like this to work on the job one day away from the street.


Try to see the positive here.