Scottish Rotarian Chris Sandford took a team of chefs with various disabilities to the ‘Culinary Olympics’ in Stuttgart, Germany, just before the lockdown.
Never since the foundation of this ‘Olympic’ competition has a team of chefs with disabilities taken part in a world class event – until now!
Representing Chris’s not-for-profit organisation, ‘The Culinary Ability Awards’ and supported by Rotary, they rubbed shoulders with some of the elite in world cooking from 70 countries. The chefs had five hours to prepare a menu based on roots for 120 guests.
And though the chefs, drawn from Scotland, Ireland, Italy and Germany didn’t win, they enjoyed an experience of a lifetime on the world’s largest hospitality platform. They competed in the ‘community chefs’ category against 29 teams and received a highly commended award.
They were supported by translator, Mona Leone, the Business Director of the Culinary Ability Awards, who speaks five languages, to talk about the technical side of the dishes chosen.
“As we had only 12 months’ practice to prepare for the Culinary Olympics, rather than the luxury of the four years, we were very satisfied with that result,” said Chris, who is President-elect of Glasgow North & Bishopbriggs Rotary.
“But, going forward, we aim much higher with our culinary endeavours.”
The Culinary Olympics started in 1900 running every four years with the best chefs from each country taking part. They are excited about the next Olympics in 2024.
Although the chefs, drawn from Scotland, Ireland, Italy and Germany didn’t win, they enjoyed an experience of a lifetime on the world’s largest hospitality platform.”
As a precursor to the Culinary Olympics, Chris is focussed on promoting cooking for all, and runs the Culinary Ability Awards, which is targeted at potential chefs with a variety of disabilities.
The ‘Culinary Ability Awards’ is a registered not for profit organisation, funded by Chris and also donations, which he founded during the Rotary centenary year of 2005.
As part of the Culinary Ability Awards, they organise a competition to identify those with disabilities who wish to follow a career in the hospitality industry, through working with schools and other organisations. Some chefs are introduced to the organisation by their family and friends.
“The competition focuses on their abilities to work in the hospitality industry,” explained Chris, who has been awarded the World Chefs’ ‘humanitarian award’ for his work with chefs with disabilities.
“The competition focuses on their abilities to work in the hospitality industry,” explained Chris, who has been awarded the World Association of Chefs’ ‘humanitarian award’ for his work with chefs with disabilities.
“Competitors compete against each other in a professional environment to show their skills and talent.
“This has a substantial roll-on effect as potential employers can then see their talent and it can be recognised in one of the world’s largest employment sectors with an ever-increasing demand for talent and dedication.
“We are now an international organisation working with many to highlight the ability beyond disability.
“There is the potential to support and share our vision to 110 countries, making this initiative accessible to all who have a passion and interest.
The competition focuses on their abilities to work in the hospitality industry,” explained Chris, who has been awarded the World Chefs’ ‘humanitarian award’ for his work with chefs with disabilities.”
“Rotary are in a unique and perfect position to be involved and also partner in supporting this initiative, from the outset.”
The Culinary Ability Awards first took place in 2005 at the RDS Dublin international cooking exhibition with tremendous success. Nine out of 10 of the competitors went on to full-time employment.
They are showcasing the talents despite living with a variety of disabilities including Down’s Syndrome, blindness, autism, deafness, physical and intellectual disability.
“Our industry sorely needs dedicated, talented individuals and, sadly, this untapped workforce is overlooked,” added Chris.
“We don’t claim to have a total solution for our industry, but we do offer a unique opportunity in supporting their vision and address the goals of those who need a chance.”
The vision is all about giving talented chefs with a disability the opportunity to progress.
The Culinary Ability Awards now offer a scholarship with world-renowned two-star Michelin chef Anton Mossman OBE, chef patron of M’s London, the private members club, and host to private royal household functions.
Chris is looking to establish a firmer footing with the culinary project. Working with Jimmy Johnston, District Governor for 1230 covering the west of Scotland, they have conceived the idea of starting a satellite Rotary club for the chefs – Culinary Ability Chefs, Rotary.
They currently have 11 members, six of whom are culinary Olympians, and have persuaded the Lord Provost of Glasgow and their predecessor to become honorary members.
The Culinary Ability Awards first took place in 2005 at the RDS Dublin international cooking exhibition with tremendous success. Nine out of 10 of the competitors went on to full-time employment.”
“This satellite club can reach our fellow chefs globally,” added Chris.
“We believe this is a perfect platform to have the Rotary logo displayed at the Olympics and other world leading events, to share our vision of inclusion and raise awareness. This has the added value of promoting the ideals of both organisations.
“Rotary has also helped with some fund-raising, including a District grant towards the team preparation and participation.”
Jimmy Johnston has been thrilled with the results of Chris and his culinary project.
“The enthusiasm; inspiration and dedication shown by Chris, to enhance the opportunities for his team and other young chefs with disabilities, is breath-taking,” he said.
“Chris is determined to ensure that they realise and achieve abilities beyond their disability in their future professional career.”
Before heading to Germany, Chris’s team of chefs headed to Ireland to take part in the ‘Savour Kilkenny’ festival, where they were hosted by Kilkenny Rotary and their President, Jason Dempsey.
Jason had offered the team to headline at the festival, as well as using the event as a training camp to host a gala fund-raising dinner where all the team cooked and tested their menu.
Jason Dempsey was impressed with what the chefs delivered. He said: “Interacting, creating, developing and delivering the Culinary Ability Awards has been an insight into what can be achieved when the values of Rotary are upheld and shared.
Before heading to Germany, Chris’s team of chefs headed to Ireland to take part in the ‘Savour Kilkenny’ festival, where they were hosted by Kilkenny Rotary and their President, Jason Dempsey.”
“I support their cause whole-heartedly and wish them every success in the future.”
Chris said that the culinary project was just the start of a journey, but one he was very excited about.
He said: “Without doubt, the world is getting smaller. Rotary’s ideal is one of fellowship; welcoming and embracing the brotherhood of life, with values to support those who are less fortunate than ourselves.
“This is what has driven me to start the Culinary Ability Awards and create opportunities for those with disability in our society.
“It has been a life-changing experience, working with such talented individuals who have so much to offer and who, unfortunately, lack a platform to share and present their skills.”