A Chef with a Purpose

Jason McMillen is a qualified chef who decided that he wanted to give more back to the community. Seven years ago he started running Café Horizons, a café run in association with the Salvation Army. The focus of this piece is to create a positive and uplifting story that highlights how Jason, Café Horizons and The Salvation Army have worked together to create a practical program to help young people in their community.

Café Horizons is a Salvation Army project that currently has two locations: Cabramatta and St Mary’s. The Cabramatta café opened in 2001 and St Mary’s opened in 2005. The original idea for the Cabramatta café came about because the local community decided they wanted to do something about the negative image that Cabramatta had in Sydney. The area was known to have one of the highest youth unemployment rates in Australia. The cafés employ many at risk youth and the long-term unemployed, giving them on the job training and helping them attain a Certificate II in Hospitality. The main age group for St Mary’s is 13-19 year-olds, while the majority of staff at Cabramatta are aged between 16-24. The program is designed to have a rolling intake, with 12 students at any one time. They also conduct short 1-day programs to re-engage school students.This aims to give them an understanding of how what they’re learning in school is used in an everyday adult working environment. Not everyone who enrols is expected to be a chef, that’s not what the program is about. Rather, Jason spends his time trying to identify each student’s individual strengths, and help them think about what they want to do. He tries to teach them the consequences of their actions, as well as show them that gaining a certificate in hospitality will help them prove to future employers that they can learn and commit.

It’s a lot of hard work for not a great deal of money, but the satisfaction Jason gets from actually helping these people is enough for him. For him it’s about each young person that he meets through the program, and giving then a practical and very real opportunity to change their lives.

VJ Bradley Conomy

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  • SkillsIQ