Culinary Arts: Abu Dhabi top chefs cook up careers for disabled people and parents

The trainees will receive a diploma at the end of the course, which will help them find jobs in the food and beverages sector

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An Abu Dhabi organisation has roped in top chefs to start a cooking programme that teaches mothers of disabled people culinary skills.

Zayed Higher Organisation for People of Determination is helping women to make money using their cooking skills, with the aim to include their disabled children in the programme at a later date.

The programme started last week with 10 mothers.

Classes will be given to students with learning difficulties after the summer break.

On Thursday, ZHO signed an agreement with Abu Dhabi National Hotels Compass to organise classes for 50 people with Australian Master Chef Richard Green.

In one session, the first group of mothers, listened attentively to Chef Green explaining how to make the perfect steak.

Participants said they had been cooking for their families for decades, but the new programme gave them a chance to earn an income using their skills.

Abdullah Al Humaidan, secretary-general of ZHO, said the organisation had the aim of training disabled students and their families to enter the job market.

He said it would help the trainees to get jobs in the food and beverages industry and the tourism sector, “which is experiencing rapid growth”.

Rula Al Shami said she would start a cooking business with her son Omar, 19, who is a special Olympic swimmer, if he showed interest.

“I participated in this course because I am always taking part in activities related to people with special needs,” said the 54-year-old former teacher.

“I have two daughters and Omar is my only son. I am very proud of him.”

She said, when he was born with Down syndrome, doctors said Omar would not talk or walk.

“He just graduated from high school, speaks two languages and is an athlete who was recognised during the World Games Abu Dhabi 2019."

Omar wants to pursue media studies at university.

Mrs Al Shami said she joined the cooking programme as she was keen to share her experiences and skills with other mothers.

“After we finish the course, I would like to assist the next batch of mothers,” she said.

Zaafaran Al Hosani, the mother of two disabled children who are athletes, said she was happy to learn about different cuisines in the first week of the course.

“I don’t know if I would start a business. My daughters are busy with sports and don’t have time,” said the 66-year-old Emirati mother.

Her daughters, Hamda, 31, a power games athlete, and Maryam, 30, a bowler, participated in the Special Olympics, held in Abu Dhabi in 2019.

Both have won dozens of medals in several international competitions.

“But I am always cooking for the family at home, especially on Friday when everybody comes to visit. I can now add more variety to our local dishes,” said Ms Al Hosani, who also has 49 grandchildren.

The trainees will receive a diploma at the end of the course.

“Integrating people of determination into the labour market would increase their self-confidence, and productivity,” Mr Al Humaidan said.

Peter Nichols, chief operating officer of Abu Dhabi National Hotels, said the goal was to help participants gain hands-on experience and to boost their confidence.

“The hospitality and catering industry is starting to reopen, and we are delighted to be in a position to support the development of local future talent in the UAE,” Mr Nichols said.

“Catering has relatively fewer barriers to entry, which helps create equality. All it takes is a combination of genuine commitment and natural talent.”

Updated: August 16, 2021, 7:27 AM