People with disabilities “can help make the difference in kitchen shortage”

People with disabilities have a key role to play in helping take the strain on understaffed kitchens across hospitality.

Not-for-profit social enterprise, The Culinary Ability Awards are challenging the industry to think again and work in partnership to understand the ways in which skilled individuals with disabilities can help turn the tide.

With recent reports suggesting that 42% of chef jobs are considered hard to fill, and specialist recruiters highlighting rush periods such as Christmas as a time when shortages hit kitchens the hardest, Culinary Ability Awards founder and chef, Chris Sanford (pictured), says people with disabilities can help make the critical difference.

He said: “Traditionally, there has been a hesitancy from kitchens to fully embrace people with disabilities, maybe due to a lack of information or a fear of the unknown. We’re here to change perceptions and bridge the gap between employers and employees and ensure that both are fully prepared. This is not about ticking a box for diversity, it’s about mobilising an as-yet untapped pool of talent ready to work.”

As a not-for-profit organisation, The Culinary Ability Awards relies solely on donations of money, time and resource to keep it operational. Primarily it is a competition for trainees with a variety of disabilities to compete against each other in a professional environment. This has a substantial roll-on effect as potential employers can experience the talented individuals, first-hand.

The Awards recently piloted an independent takeover fundraiser at the renowned Two Fat Ladies at The Buttery restaurant in Glasgow. Three chefs and four front-of-house staff with disabilities were invited to work alongside the existing team, with guests providing payment for their meals in the form of donations. The night proved to be such a success – catering for 50 covers on a traditionally less busy weekday evening – that the establishment is currently exploring ways to integrate the young charges into their day-to-day operation.

Commercial director for Two Fat Ladies, Gavin Cuthbertson, said: “The participants were absolutely outstanding on the night; the food and service was excellent. We had guests from hotels, restaurants and colleges alongside regulars. It was a fantastic way of giving back to the community. We raised a lot for a great cause, but it’s not just about the money, it’s about giving people with disabilities the opportunity to show that they can thrive in hospitality and change perceptions. For one night they absolutely ran the show, we were simply the support act.”

To find out more about The Culinary Ability Awards visit


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