Disability charity Hannahs helps the confidence of others at its Bistro
PUBLISHED: 16:01 02 August 2016 | UPDATED: 16:01 02 August 2016
A sense of pride, plus a large dose of job satisfaction is the order of the day at an eatery that is helping to change lives. Chrissy Harris visits the Bistro at Hannahs, Seale-Hayne
Head chef Dino Pavledis knows he’s in for a treat when he sees that green trolley coming along the path, proudly pushed by a team of smiling volunteers.
Inside will be a range of fruit, vegetables and herbs that would make any cook’s heart sing.
Freshly picked salad leaves, pea shoots, berries and even a South American vegetable called ‘oca’ can make up the delivery. And the best part is, it’s come from just 350 paces away.
“You can’t buy anything like it,” says Dino. “It’s a wonderful mix, picked by hand that same day. I see what they’ve got and then incorporate it into our menu.”
Many of the ingredients used at the Bistro at Hannahs are grown in a beautiful hilltop garden at the charity’s site at Seale-Hayne, near Newton Abbot.
Hannahs helps children and adults with profound physical and learning disabilities by providing care, support and the chance to learn new skills.
Volunteers, some in wheelchairs, work hard to plant, nurture and harvest an astonishing range of plants over the course of the year.
Other guests, as they are known, then help Dino turn the (very) local produce into delicious dishes, ready to be served to customers in the Bistro.
The menu has a colourful array of salads, main courses and light bites, including tandoori halloumi served with pan fried cauliflower rice, Cajun spiced butterfly chicken, plus rhubarb and custard tart with clotted cream.
“It’s a lovely place to work,” says Dino, who grew up on the Isle of Wight, helping his parents run their hotels, before moving to Devon and continuing his catering career. “People come and help out in the kitchen regularly and it’s great to see how much they enjoy being here. We’ve got one girl, Laura Stubbs, who comes in and spends a few hours every week making cakes. The quality of them is just exceptional.”
Dino says that’s the best part about being Head Chef in a place like this.
“You can see people’s confidence growing,” he says. “That’s the most satisfying part of the job for me - seeing what a difference Hannahs makes. Once many of these people have left school, there are so few facilities for them to be involved in. We’re making a community for them here. They get to do so much.”
Up in the garden, which enjoys amazing views over the South Devon coast and countryside, the latest crops are being fed and watered.
More than 100 varieties of vegetables, herbs and edible flowers are grown here every year, using sustainable and organic principles.
In the polytunnel, summer vegetables such as sweet chocolate peppers, moonglow tomatoes and tromboncino squash are starting out.
Outside in the raised beds (high enough to be tended to by wheelchair users) an impressive array of lettuces and leaves is sprouting.
The garden also has a selection of fruit and nut trees, including the touchingly named chuckleberries (a cross between a redcurrant, a gooseberry, and a jostaberry - itself a cross between a blackcurrant and a gooseberry).
“It’s a very magical place to be,” says Emma Tame, Hannahs horticultural co-ordinator.
She leads a team of willing helpers who take it in turns, sometimes in all weathers, to look after the plants and crops.
“The satisfaction we get is amazing,” says Emma, who makes sure each task fits each guests’ needs. “We can see their interest grow by the questions they ask and the comments they make.
“What I find really gratifying is when they start growing at home. All they need is advice and encouragement.”
Some of the produce is sold on site but much of it ends up in the Bistro.
“The smiles on the faces when we come up with our green trolley and hand it over to the chef,” says Emma. “It’s just fantastic.” w
The Bistro is open from Monday to Saturday, 7.30am to 10pm and Sunday from 8am to 10pm.