Back in Spring 2004, after Professor Cyrus Todiwala MBE presented me with my Junior Chefs Academy graduation certificate, my father and Cyrus had a long conversation. Dad told Cyrus about my personal situation and upbringing, the story of which he was very interested to hear.
As a parent living in the same part of London as ourselves, Cyrus understands very well how hard it can be for some kids growing up in London. In Hackney and Tower Hamlets in particular, the youth sometimes feel they aren’t always given the opportunities to succeed. But when you see the success achieved by locals such as Olympic athlete Phillips Idowu, who attended the same school as me, it is clear that passion and determination can go a long way.
Cyrus was really delighted to see that I had such great support and encouragement from my parents and so when I approached him a year later during the summer after my first year at college, he was more than happy to invite me to train at his Michelin-listed restaurant Café Spice Namasté in Aldgate. My experience there was quite different to that of a normal restaurant environment.
I was allowed to work alongside his knowledgeable Head Chef Babar Salim in his private kitchen, which gave him the chance to work with me on a much more personal level, away from the hustle and bustle. I really enjoyed it and learnt a lot in the time I spent there, and I am hoping to return to Café Spice during the summer to put in some more work.
A few months later, Cyrus contacted Compass Group journalist Sara Matchett, with whom he had previously been involved in the media. He recommended she interview me for an article about the Junior Chefs Academy in Compass Group’s Fusion Magazine, to which I eagerly obliged. Sara phoned me soon after and interviewed me over the phone, for a publication in the February 13th edition of the magazine. Thanks to Cyrus and Sara for the great article about me.
Not long after the interview, in response to a letter I wrote thanking him for inviting me to train at Café Spice, Cyrus told me of an upcoming awards ceremony called The Edge Employer Awards, having its debut launch.
The ceremony was created to "shine the spotlight on practical learning success stories for young people in the workplace". Café Spice was being honoured with an award for its excellent youth training, and Cyrus gave me the chance to represent Café Spice as one of its many trainees.
Jamie Oliver of Fifteen and Simon Woodroffe of Yo! Sushi were invited to give speeches.
Of course I gratefully accepted Cyrus's invitation and confirmed the arrangements with the restaurant's General Manager. I think it’s really great that Cyrus is an ambassador to the training of young people like myself. It gives you the chance to gain practical learning experience in a realistic working environment, and it is extremely beneficial to both the trainer as well as the trainee.