Special needs students get a taste of cooking

Two celebrity chefs impart skills to 36 youngsters, under law firm's community scheme

THE call came from a law firm, and home-grown celebrity chefs Willin Low and Janice Wong jumped at the chance to dish out cooking lessons yesterday.

Their students were 36 youngsters from the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore's (Minds) Lee Kong Chian Gardens School (LGS). Each chef taught a specially tailored class, aiming to impart simple culinary skills in a fun way.

The first 18 students, together with their teachers and volunteers from TSMP Law Corporation, checked into the Tools Of The Trade cooking studio in Dunearn Road as early as 9am.

Ms Wong, 27, took the morning session. On the teaching menu was simple fare such as chocolate cupcakes and cheese pasta.

'I have worked with many charities, and it is encouraging to see children, despite their special situation, so enthusiastic to learn new skills,' said the dessert chef, who was trained at world-renowned culinary school Le Cordon Bleu Paris. She opened a restaurant called the 2am:dessertbar 21/2 years ago.

Mr Low, 39, a lawyer-turned-chef, said his Wild Rocket Group believes in 'giving back to society', and this year it picked children. 'We have been giving to The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund, and when TSMP asked us to do this, we jumped at the opportunity,' he added.

He took the second batch at 1.30pm, teaching the students how to make salad, curry mayo chicken sandwiches, kaya bread and butter pudding.

Getting his gloved fingers dirty with egg and chocolate was 18-year-old Poh Chian An.

The Minds student, who loved the experience, was recently awarded a training stint in room service with the Holiday Inn Singapore, and said he is looking forward to the experience.

Yesterday's cooking classes were part of TSMP's continuing community programme.

Its joint managing director, Mr Thio Shen Yi, 44, said his firm had an insight into what life was like for special needs children last year. 'We took some children with autism and cerebral palsy to Universal Studios then. It was uplifting and humbling at the same time, and we wanted to take this opportunity to work with these children again,' he added.

Ms Vijaya Rajagopal, 55, a pre-vocation teacher at LGS, said such programmes are a good way of integrating children with special needs into society.

'These children are no different from other children. More of such sessions will help people to understand and accept them. Perhaps they would be able to find employment in the future,' she added.

LGS, one of Minds' 11 special education schools, offers a broad-spectrum curriculum to teach, equip and train its 247 intellectually disabled students for a productive future.

juditht@sph.com.sg