Thursday, 8 May 2008

Realising Your True Potential

I'd be lying if I didn't admit that there are times when the goal of one day reaching the top of my profession seems just about impossible. Days when the physical and mental effort involved in working in a fine dining kitchen seems almost unbearable. Times when I wonder if it's really all worthwhile.

For some people, the physical and mental effort involved in achieving much simpler personal goals in life seem every bit as difficult, if not harder. For one particular group, the prospect of turning up for work on time, working as part of a kitchen team and preparing food for paying customers is an impossible dream.

Or at least it would be, without the totally crazy idea of two self-confessed "silly old bats" from Minehead, Somerset. Twelve years ago, Sue Jenkins and Maureen Tyler-Moore opened Foxes Academy, admitted the first students to this seaside catering college & training hotel and earnt themselves the title "the Hinge & Bracket of special needs". Students with a wide variety of learning disabilities spend three years training at Foxes, with the intention that on graduation they should be able to hold down a job in the hospitality industry. The achievements of Foxes and its external assessments are phenomenal.

A year ago I wrote about Foxes after watching Channel 4's The Strangest Hotel In Britain, one of a series of inspirational documentaries about people overcoming physical and mental challenges in their lives. At the time I was disappointed when my post failed to attract any attention or to generate a single comment. While on holiday in London the other week, I managed to get hold of a copy of the film and edit it to fit the tight constraints of YouTube. If you can find ten minutes to spare, sit and watch this clip. What it reinforces for me is the extent to which achievement is relative. Tasks that are fairly simple for you and I can appear to be mountainous obstacles for some people. What's important in life is not your level of attainment but that you apply the effort, focus and persistence needed to realise your true potential. Watching these guys doesn't half make you shut up and stop complaining.


dodgye said...

Thank you for taking the time to edit that and share it. I am having a really busy week and two staff are off sick so I'm covering their jobs too. Instead of working through my lunch (as usual) I took 10 minutes out to watch the video and am glad I did, it has definately given me a bit of perspective... I'll just get on now and try not to grumble too much for the rest of the day ;-)

awesome blog by the way

Emma said...

I saw this documentary last year, and agreed, it's inspirational, and always amazing to see people offer up their time for the benefit of marginalised portions of society. The sad thing is that it shouldn't be atall amazing, it should be normal, and we should be more inclusive.

I can't point any fingers, I spend my days doing my own things but a reminder like this documentary (and post!) every now and then is important.

I missed your post at the time and am very surprised too that you didn't get a reaction!


Douglas Blyde said...

Mm. TV is obsessed with mental illness. Landmark also brought us 'The Strangest Village in Britain' in '06. Do you think those 'enrolled' at Foxes gained from the televisual intervention?

Scott at Real Epicurean said...

True, as a nation we're bred to complain; seeing others less fortunate certainly provides food for thought.

Great Big Veg Challenge said...

Aidan -
I saw the film you mention. It was superb and inspirational. I recently made a short film about the work of Dilston College in Northumbria - a college working with adults with learning disabilities. I came away completely bowled over by the students and the staff.
I loved the Foxes Academy Film but not the title of the documentary

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

Thanks for that Aidan. I didn't read your post last year but just watched your edited version of the documentary. Your clips are great. Very thought provoking. Some people have already said it - it shouldn't be extraordinary.

p.s. thank you for the mention in your interview with Trusted Places.

nicisme said...

I missed this first time around, so thanks for posting the video - amazing!

Trig said...

Thanks guys for your supportive comments. I think I must have just chosen a bad day to post last time.

Douglas - I think you are confusing learning disabilities with mental illnesses. Most learning disabilities are either pre-natal conditions, or result from birth problems or serious illness in early childhood. Learning disabilities are lifelong conditions and usually have a significant impact on a person's life. There are 1.5m people with a learning disability in the UK. Like all of us, they are individuals who want different things in life and need different levels of support.

All such TV programmes will be to some extent intrusive and/or exploitative of those they portray. At one extreme is the inclusion of someone with Tourette's syndrome in Big Brother so people can laugh at his uncontrolled swearing. At the other extreme are sensitive programmes that encourage people to understand and support those different from the norm.

I think this programme fell on the latter side of the spectrum. Many of those involved clearly enjoyed participating in the filming and benefited from the experience. It's also really important that the rest of us are exposed to people with learning disabilities and not allowed to shut them away out
of sight, as suggested by the "Christian" guest described in the programme. Many of the students in this programme now hold down ordinary jobs in the community and that can only happen if people achieve the tolerance and understanding that comes from familiarity.

londonrestaurant said...

I see where Douglas is coming from, but think its the title thats exploitative rather than the actual film, this is echoed by great big veg challenge. A pity that what seems a great production is forced into (you'd surely have to admit) a bad title, presumably for ratings.

Still, this is a late response but wanted to say, I really like your edit. A close friend of mine got married at a similar hotel in eatbourne, I wish I had the name but don't, and can't find it on google to plug it. Anyway, great effort to highlight this.

I hope to eat at commerc 24 soon, really enjoy reading your blog, long may it continue.

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