The false fruit gâteaux

There’s a discussion in the kitchen. “Shall I do the pasta bake or shall I do nachos?” Ayrden is asking Angela, although he’s really just thinking out loud. “No, I’ll do the pasta bake,” he says, not waiting for an answer. “Bacon and mushroom pasta bake. Mixed pepper soup for starters and fruit gateaux for afters.”

“Shall we make everything £1.50?” asks Angela to nobody, before she goes outside to write the prices on the chalkboard. So, not much of a discussion then.

Ayrden is half of BYTES, another new community project that started because of the NESTA Neighbourhood Challenge. It’s a combination of food and employment advice and the other half of the partnership is Ayrden’s dad, Mark. They come down to The Edge every Wednesday, Ayrden takes over the kitchen for the day and Mark does consultations over a plate of pasta bake… or nachos.  It’s a another simple idea and was, rightly, one of the Challenge winners.

“Can I sit you two down for 15 minutes after lunch and have a chat?” I ask.

“You can do it now,” says Ayrden. “Follow me into town and we can do it on the move.”

“Ideal.”

On the way I hear that Ayrden is a trained chef and he works part of the week at the Sprat and Mackerel down in the harbour. His dad has spent his career supporting young people, particularly around employment. Across the bay in Torquay they have been running a weekly breakfast club where jobseekers would follow their egg and bacon with a consultation with Mark, or with someone from the Job Centre. Like a mini jobs fair but with a free meal throw in. It worked.

Hearing about the Challenge and aware of the potential of the new café at The Edge, Ayrden had the idea of extending the project to Brixham.

“I’ve always thought food was a very good way of breaking down social barriers,” he says. “I wanted to aim a Brixham project at younger people specifically as the statistics for 16-24 year-olds in the town are awful.”

“Really, why do you think that is?” Ayrden describes the seasonal nature of the economy: low paid work in hospitality and catering. The only well-paid industry is pretty much a closed shop. If you’re lucky enough to be taken on as a deckhand as a teenager, you’re a fisherman for life. A case of dead men’s oilskins.

“Where are we going?”

“We’ll head up here first,” he says as we turn the corner into Fore Street. “First I need to get some fruit and veg for today and then we might pop into Tesco and get a few more bits and pieces. I’m going to cheat today and make a false fruit gâteaux.”

Ayrden speaks precisely, enunciating every word. He could easily be doing a commentary for a TV cookery programme: Brixham Beach Barbies. He’s in the greengrocers now, filling paper bags with mushrooms, leeks, courgettes, tomatoes. Mara has already made the soup they will serve today so Ayrden has to reciprocate and have one ready for tomorrow, potato and leek, he thinks.

“Are strawberries still a pound a punnet?”

“£1.49,” is the response, the cashier a bit bemused by this customer who has a photographer in tow, snapping his every  move.

“So what’s false about your fruit gâteaux?” I ask when we are outside the shop.

“I use flan bases and a fruit yogurt mixed with extra thick double cream and lay that on top followed by a layer of fruit and another flan base and then repeat it so I have this tiered creation. It’s just a quick way of producing a tasty, relatively healthy sweet.”

“Relatively healthy with all that double cream?” I tease.

“Relatively, I said.”

We’re in Tesco now looking for the extra thick double cream. Ayrden is excited about a course he is about to do which will allow him to establish his own courses, teaching an NVQ in food preparation and production to over-16s in the kitchen at The Edge. And he’ll be good at it, too. He’s an incredibly open, friendly young man who will make a good teacher.

Peep. Peep… peep. Aryden is scanning his own items.

“We also want to link up with the guys in the workshop and offer some basic engineering and woodworking courses which could make someone really employable for an engineering apprenticeship. Marine engineering is a big trade down here. If we could train someone so they can be taken on as an apprentice then that would be a great achievement.”

Please take your change. Notes are dispensed below the scanner.

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