Last week, the UK's Springboard charity, in partnership with Foxes Academy, The Camden Society and The Royal Academy of Culinary Arts, held a lunch at Westminster Kingsway College, to promote the employment of people with learning disabilities within the hospitality industry.
Penny Mordaunt, MP and minister for disabled people, health and work, attended the lunch along with many of the industry's top employers, such as Hilton, Yo! Sushi, Gather & Gather, Wagamama and Elior and chefs, Brian Turner and Cyrus Todiwala.
During her opening speech Mordaunt, commented: "Disabled people make up almost a fifth of the working age population, and it's crucial that the hospitality industry is not missing out on the skills, talents and personal qualities they can bring to the workplace.
"This event goes to show that there is a huge pool of talent out there, and I urge all employers across the industry and beyond to help ensure the opportunity is there for everyone to reach their full potential."
Tracey Clare-Gray, principal at Foxes Academy's
Helen Smith, operations manager at The Camden Society, added: "People with a learning disability are a skilled and untapped workforce able to meet the business needs of the hospitality industry. Employers can gain access to free and on-going support to ensure employment is successful. Simple changes are required to make recruitment and workplaces accessible, such as replacing traditional interviews with work trials to allow people to demonstrate their practical abilities."
Springboard, who facilitated and organised the lunch, has specialised programmes dedicated to helping young people with learning disabilities gain the skills needed to enter the world of work, training them in a variety of hospitality fields - including waiting, catering and housekeeping.
People with learning disabilities only currently represent 5.8% of paid employment in hospitality. The lunch was aimed at demonstrating talent that could fill a pipeline the industry desperately needs with the sector estimated to create 500,000 jobs within the next five years
Lunch was prepared and served by the students of Foxes Academy and The Camden Society assisted by first year students at Westminster Kingsway College with dishes designed and demonstrated by Liam Finnegan, head chef from Taunton's Castle Hotel (starter), Buckingham Palace chef, Mark Flanagan and Sue Yates and Chris Basten, Lecturers in Culinary Arts at Westminster Kingsway College (dessert).
The menu included: a starter of cured salmon ballotine, cucumber, beetroot and wasabi; a main course of Windsor pheasant breast, roasted shallot purée, cabbage and puy lentils and dessert of vanilla panna cotta and tropical fruit salsa.