Differently abled youth gets skills

Michaela Wiechardt, Lennart Keuker, Camilla Quieroleon, Lara Hablutzel, Ashley Thompson, Georgina Friis-Smith, chef Caley Gray and Michelle Beeton.

A group of young adults are learning how to overcome their challenges and become self-sufficient through a love of cooking.

And the effects are visible in the warm happy smiles that greet customers who enter the coffee shop in Diep River.

Lalalicious Cuisine was founded by Kathryn Hablutzel and her daughter, Lara, 26, to empower young intellectually challenged adults.

Kathryn says it all began when Lara left St George’s Grammar School in Mowbray. Finding very few vocational opportunities for young adults with learning disabilities once they leave school, she made a plan to provide her daughter with skills so she could make her own way in the world.

Employing the help of a retired chef, Lara learnt the basics of cooking and went on to sell meals to neighbours, family and friends.

The small business thrived and they moved to a cottage in Claremont. It wasn’t long before they outgrew the premises, and one year ago, they moved to Diep River to what was Cafe D’Arts.

They approached Carianne Wilkinson, vice principal at Silwood School of Cookery, and explained their vision. “Kathryn contacted me early last year as she had lost her main teacher,” says Carianne. “I put her in contact with Caley Grey, one of our graduates, who I thought would be a
perfect fit for the position. I’m delighted that their working relationship has gone from strength to strength. I’m a strong believer that people need a purpose to be happy and feel valued in life and Lalalicious is doing just that.”

Carianne has also provided them with contacts in the industry for possible placements for students.

Caley has adapted Silwood course material and cooking methods, baking, business and associated disciplines. She is now a partner in the business and continues to teach the youngsters and runs the restaurant while Kathryn deals with the admin.

Some of the students have found employment in the industry. Robert Murchison is an intern at La Cuccina and Hout Bay Manor, both in Hout Bay, and works one day at Lalalicious. Georgina Friis-Smith works at Dish Food and Social in Observatory and Lennart Keuker interns at Charlie’s Bakery in Cape Town.

Kathryn says that with South Africa’s high unemployment rate, there is little hope for those who are differently abled. Lalalicious, she says, is helping to change that by offering people with special needs a shot at economic independence.

“Something like this doesn’t just happen. It takes a lot of love. Lots of people have supported us. Origins does barista training and someone else donated the crockery,” she says.

Lalalicious has an outdoor area with views over Constantiaberg. The menu includes ready-made meals with a selection of dishes each day to provide variety for the young cooks and their customers. They also stock a range of baked goods, gifts and fudge.