Samsui Kitchen at Enabling Village prepares persons with disabilities for a career in F&B.
Nestled in the lush greenery of Enabling Village at Lengkok Bahru, Samsui Kitchen bustles with activity. There, they prepare up to 5,000 meals daily for nursing homes, student care centres, hotels and companies. The social enterprise trains persons with disabilities, preparing them for a career in the food and beverage (F&B) industry.
This kitchen at Enabling Village spans 3,485 square feet, about the size of three 4-room HDB flats. Workspaces are built lower and only sliding doors are installed, so people on wheelchairs use them with ease. All cooking is done by induction, a safer option compared with gas stoves.
Samsui Kitchen is part of Soup Restaurant Group. It is the brainchild of Mr Ang Kian Peng, a director of the group’s subsidiary, Samsui Supplies & Services, who set up the kitchen in Enabling Village in 2018 with corporate social responsibility in mind.
Earlier in 2017, Kian Peng set up Samsui Kitchen in Changi Prison, training more than 30 inmates on food preparation techniques.
“Our business model is unique,” he says. “Our kitchen at Enabling Village is a hybrid. Besides running a business where we supply cooked food to customers, we train people with disabilities.” He adds, “Here, we focus on our core competencies in F&B to do good.”
Trainees at Samsui Kitchen at Enabling Village include persons with autism, Down syndrome and physical disabilities.
Samsui Kitchen partners Sodexo, a French food services and facilities management company on training. Standard Chartered is a sponsor, having contributed some $200,000 to Samsui Kitchen’s operations at Enabling Village since 2019.
The first training phase is integrated learning. In addition to classroom lessons, trainees learn basic knife skills, prepare food and practise good customer service. Lessons are conducted weekly over four months.
Thereafter, trainees proceed to the second training phase, or applied learning. Over two months, they attend classes twice a week, rolling up their sleeves to chop, julienne, sear, blend and more, under the watchful eyes of assigned mentors.
The third and final phase focuses on placing trainees into jobs at hotels, restaurants and commercial kitchens.
“Before we place them for jobs externally, we assess them over a week to see if they can work independently, and if they are doing the right things such as handling food hygienically,” Kian Peng elaborates. Working in a full-fledged commercial kitchen is typically stressful, with staff working at break-neck speed to fulfill orders. In addition, some environments could be claustrophobic and noisy, making it challenging for certain disability groups, such as those with autism.
“We know how stressful commercial kitchens can be, and this could be a challenge for people with disabilities,” he explains, “so, we adopt a gradual approach of progressing our trainees into stressful environments, to help them adapt.”
Samsui Kitchen at Enabling Village has trained 60 people with disabilities in 2021 and aims to train 300 over the next five years for jobs in the F&B industry.
With much to cheer about, Kian Peng observes that while awareness of inclusivity has grown, not all organisations are too keen yet to hire people with disabilities.
Still, he is determined to press on, with support from partners. He notes, “We know that what we are doing today will help people with disabilities make their own living and contribute to the economy. And we’ll continue to do good together.”
At Enabling Village, we are excited to partner Samsui Kitchen on their journey to help persons with disabilities and their caregivers. Are you a social enterprise or an individual who’s keen to realise new opportunities at EV? Get in touch with us at email@example.com .