My Week: Amy McParland prepares for a crucial cafe opening

The service manager at Unity Kitchen recounts her week

Amy McParland
Amy McParland

Monday: I have three coffees to get me going for the day. Later, I head to our cafe at St Luke's in Islington to join our executive chef and start preparing for a charity gala in aid of Ambitious about Autism and the National Autistic Society. The gala is organised by the actor Luke Treadaway - who, at an emotional ceremony a few weeks ago, gave out certificates to our own trainees and apprentices, all of whom have learning disabilities. Later, my team and I go to the Apollo in Shaftesbury Avenue to serve canapes at a celebrity-packed reception for A Curious Night at the Theatre.

Tuesday: Activity and excitement levels at our Unity Kitchen cafe at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park ramp up as we prepare to open on 27 July. The 15-strong catering team - six of whom have learning disabilities - start work at the site. The heavy catering equipment is installed and I check that it is all present and correct. The first deliveries arrive, along with the crockery, cutlery and furniture.

Wednesday: Interviews for our next cohort of eight apprentices took place last week. Today, we contact the successful applicants to tell them the good news. All the apprentices have disabilities and will undergo a programme devised to equip them for working in the catering industry. Competition for places has been stiff - we had 60 applicants this year.

Thursday: One of Business in the Community's business connectors meets me to talk about how big-name companies might be able to provide pro bono or low-cost practical help to Unity Kitchen. I spend the rest of the day reviewing suppliers.

Friday: One day before opening, I oversee the final training sessions on the new tills for the cafe at the Olympic Park. The project architects arrive to take photos of the brand new building. I wonder if they'd prefer it to stay that way forever. Then friends and family arrive for a dry run to try the whole operation out. I'm relieved that nothing major goes wrong.

Unity Kitchen is a social enterprise run by the Camden Society, a charity that supports people with learning disabilities.

Amy McParland is service manager at Unity Kitchen

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