Michelin-starred chef Michel Roux Jr headed to the north east last week to officially open the UK’s first hotel which trains young people with autism and learning difficulties.
The chef, who runs Le Gavroche in London, was at the launch of Gateshead’s The Vault, now renamed The Rivers Hotel, following its £2m refurbishment.
“What the hospitality industry needs is places like this,” said Roux Jr. “It’s not about looking at people’s disabilities, it’s focusing on their abilities and giving them options.
“It’s been an absolute pleasure and an honour to be able to come and see what is being done here.”
The Rivers Hotel was taken over in early 2016 by the St Camillus Care Group, with the aim of using it as a training facility for young people with learning difficulties and autism to get real, valuable experience of every aspect of the hospitality industry.
Working in partnership with a number of colleges around the region, the young people have not only gained experience in everything from front-of-house to catering, but many of them have also gone on to get full time, paid employment.
The hotel – which although autism friendly is also open to the general public – boasts 28 rooms, a large function room, an American style diner and an outside area.
John Heron, managing director of St Camillus Care Group who created the scheme said it was a “fantastic opportunity to show someone of Michel’s stature exactly what we’re doing here.”
“Michel was always our first choice to open the hotel because of his unrivalled understanding of the hospitality industry and because he genuinely cares about young people who may not always get the chances they deserve,” he said.