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Action for Children recently brought their hospitality programme back to Edinburgh, and we were delighted to once again collaborate with them in running this project for the third time. 

After lots of planning and preparation the  hospitality training week was upon us and an intrepid group of young people arrived at the EFS kitchen. These young people are taking part in longer ‘hospitality and skills at work’ course with Action for Children and we’ve teamed up to ensure they get some good particle experience and training as part of this. 

We first talked the young people through the plan for their three days with EFS: learn, cook and then put on a meal at Edinburgh Headway Group. Headway is a fantastic charity that supports adults with acquired brain injuries, their carers and their families through rehabilitation and recreation opportunities. We are also very happy to have them as our neighbours at Peffer Business Centre.


After receiving the exciting news of what the three days would include, the group set out delegating jobs. Before long, the kitchen was alive with enthusiastic hustle and bustle. 

Our aims were for the project to help the young people understand more about hospitality. Some key goals were:

  • to demonstrate, explain and discuss what life is like in a working kitchen, 
  • to instil the values and ethos of professional kitchen culture,
  • to shed light on what life as a chef would hold,
  • to put on a successful community meal.

“Our goals were to make sure our group had fun, was dynamic, entertaining and the group learned new skills and these were achieved. All the young people really enjoyed their time. It was an amazing week and we hope we can work with EFS again in the future!” – Action for Children

Day One

As always, the first part of the day was set aside for knife skills. The group took to this very well and showed a great aptitude for knife safety. Once the basics were covered, carrots, onions, celery, aubergine, and leeks were all chopped at a furious rate. The second part of the day involved demonstrating chicken butchery which led to all the young people successfully breaking down their own chickens. Making butter came next and many were surprised at how easy the process was. 

Learning how to break down a chicken

As with any positive learning environment the maxim of ‘no such thing as a bad question’ is always applied in our kitchen, and the young people had lots of opportunities to ask away. As day one drew to a close the group reflected on the skills they had learnt, the new food they had eaten and the importance of being on time the next day. 

Day Two

It was another busy day in the kitchen and our first hour was dedicated to flavouring our homemade butter and refreshing knife skills on chopping different types of herbs.

The next stage of the day was devoted to learning more about the different types of work and businesses in the hospitality industry. Our ‘Build your own Food Business’ exercise tasked participants with building a food business from scratch and then presenting this to the group. Our budding entrepreneurs set about establishing the full gamut of the hospitality industry from cafes to fine dining. 

The day progressed with a lovingly made lunch which the group helped prepare from leftovers. Staff lunch, a true kitchen skill: check.

Prep for the next day’s meal continued at pace. Skills around blanching, seasoning and wider vegetable prep were explained, examined and achieved when we made pearl barley risotto, followed by demonstrating the process of making syrups. Day two was a triumph: everything was on schedule, and there was plenty of excitement ahead of the final day and the big meal. 

Day Three

On our final day, the group turned up extra early and the anticipation was palpable. 

The first step in our plan for the day was to make the bread – soda bread to be precise. For this we used the leftover buttermilk from making butter as an example of avoiding food waste. Proving an example of how to run a zero-waste kitchen was a key part of our learning agenda for the whole week.

“We love the work you do and we’re happy to have a good relationship with EFS. You worked very well with the young people and made the experience very enjoyable. We were really happy that you focused on non-waste throughout, as this is really important!”  – Action for Children

Our next task was baking. A surplus of carrots meant that 100 mini carrot cupcakes were produced and topped with toasted nuts and candied lemon peel. Delicious. 

With the event happening on the other side of the business park from the EFS kitchen, we knew it wouldn’t take long to head over and set up. Sadly the Edinburgh weather decided it would make the 100-yard journey miserable by pouring with rain! With bodies wrapped up and food covered, we set about transporting all the produce from the week.

The Menu
Soda Bread with Chicken Skin Butter or Herb Butter
Roast Chicken, Caponata, Pearl Barley Risotto with a Green Sauce
Green Bean Salad in a Green Goddess Dressing
Carrot Cupcakes, toasted Walnuts and candied Lemon Peel


The fantastic staff at Headway welcomed us with open arms, we set up the kitchen and got everything reheated and ready for service. We set about organising stations and streamlined a pass to serve from. The food began to be taken out by different members of the group, each explaining the dish and the processes involved in it reaching this point. 

The meal was enjoyed by all, and members of the Headways community shared some fantastic feedback, including;

  • “You’d pay good money in a top restaurant for that food”
  • “I don’t usually try new things but that was amazing”
  • “I’m going to try and make some of that at home”
  • “The service was fantastic”

 As a member of Headway staff said, 

“Everybody from our members, volunteers and staff had a wonderful time at the recent EFS event at Edinburgh Headway Group.The service from the team was top class and the whole thing from end to end was coordinated down to a T. The food was excellent and so tasty. It was wonderful for our members to have the opportunity to be looked after and spoilt for a day. Thank you all so much from all of us.”


Having pulled off the amazing meal, there was a sense of appreciation amongst the young people for the learnings they were each taking away from the project. As one young person said, “this is very valuable to me because I have gained a lot of skills that I have not been able to do in the course of the project”. Many of the young people fed back that they had really enjoyed the experience and that had made them want to cook more in the future. 

“It’s a good place to meet new people and work on things you like. I didn’t cook much but now I want to after this course…it has made me want to cook more. I learnt how to cut an onion and I will do this every time I’m cutting onions. My favourite part was making butter.” – a young person on the project

We had a fantastic time working with both Action for Children and Headway, and we are so proud of these young people for all their hard work and all that they achieved in these three days in the EFS kitchen. We loved support these young people on their journey into gaining practical hospitality skills and we wish them all the very best in their future careers!

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