I started to become a selective mute near the end of Primary school, and it got drastically worse in High school. I think it developed as a way to cope with my social anxiety. It got to a point where I wouldn't eat in public, talk to anyone or show emotions. Even looking at people’s faces or eyes I couldn't manage.
ETF has helped me immeasurably over the past few years. Not only have they helped me gain qualifications that I missed out on in High school, but they've helped me to speak and gain more confidence. I can eat in public now thanks to Ronnie, and my speech is much better than it was.
I still can't speak unless asked a question or look at people and make eye contact. But I think ETF has set me on the path and given me an opportunity to improve over time, when before I'd have never been able to.
I'll really miss them when I leave.
You can’t just live your life off benefits.
You can’t live your life off living off other people. it’s never going to be the same, you’ll never be as happy.
I live independently, and I love it.
Everything I have is mine.
I moved to Torbay to be nearer my family, but couldn't find work so JCP referred me to Eat That Frog. I kept seeing people going into the training kitchen at The Pad and wondered what they were up to, as it looked like really good fun. I've always loved cooking and I knew hospitality would give me a better chance of a good career.
That decision changed my life dramatically - after a couple of months on the catering course, I got an interview for the River Cottage Chef Training course. Loads of people wanted a place, but I was lucky enough to be chosen - my mum was thrilled because she's seen River Cottage on TV!
For the past year, I've been training at a local restaurant and travelling to River Cottage's Axminister Chef School. It's been tough, but I've now got a qualification, a full-time secure job and the means to support my baby daughter. I plan to be Head Chef within 10 years, and that's possible because of the chance I've been given by ETF and the hard work I've put into it.
Ethan started attending Eat That Frog at the age of 15, after personal issues made it difficult for him to remain in school. In September 2015, when he started Level 3 Professional Cookery he was a giant of a young man, standing 6’4” but very quiet with a solemn expression – quite an intimidating figure at first glance!
Ethan didn’t speak very much, but he openly admitted his loathing for Maths, English and writing, and also how he didn’t like to do anything he didn’t want to do. We started with basic Level 3 recipes such as mayonnaise, hollandaise sauce, guacamole etc. These were things he had never made or tasted before, and suddenly he was keen, interested, and began to make conversation. He was happy to try everything and encouraged others to help including staff and learners.
At Level 3, the course theory is quite intense, but our tutor worked with him on a 1:1 basis and Ethan was happy to discuss the answers before putting pen to paper. During practical sessions, Ethan took control of the kitchen, which he found really rewarding.
Towards the end of the course, Ethan planned a Fine Dining night; he cooked a delicious menu with choices of starter, main, dessert, cheeseboard and coffee. He was responsible for the planning, costing, purchasing and preparation of all items and supervising a small team of staff on the day to carry out his instructions. Guests included VIPs from the Job Centre, our IV, staff, his parents, and local employers. The evening was a complete success, and Ethan and his team received glowing feedback from all diners.
Not only did Ethan complete his level 3 Qualification, but he was one of only two people to ever achieve 100% on his written functional skills assessment. He is now working hard, in a job he loves plus he’s taking driving lessons and plans on buying a car.
We’re sure Ethan has very bright future, though he still hates having his photo taken!
“I was so bored before I came to Eat That Frog! I’d just get up, go on the internet, play computer games…It sounds okay but after a while, it gets really stale not having any focus to life. I’d gained a Diploma in Digital Applications and Level 3 Creative Media at College, but hadn’t had any careers advice so I couldn’t see a way forward. I had no luck finding work on my own, so felt stuck, and lacked in confidence.
I started at ETF doing Admin/ Reception and helping learners with their computers. It was a good use of my skills, and a real boost to my confidence to be responsible and in charge of things. The environment was very friendly with some of the most amazingly kind and generous people I’ve met. It was so nice to integrate and get along with the staff and also get the experience and skills I needed.
The real high point is that ETF helped me get the right job - an apprenticeship with South Devon College, working on the computer support desk. Now I have a decent job, and the chance of further training. I’m going out more and meeting people face to face, and so excited for the future.
Colin was referred to Eat That Frog by his Job Centre Plus advisor - he had been unemployed and looking for work for two years. Colin had been getting very frustrated by job searching, but was interested in practical grounds-keeping work, so his advisor initially recommended that he attend Eat That Frog’s Parkfield centre, to find out more about Horticulture.
Colin had found that not having his labourer’s card was a barrier to getting the kind of jobs he wanted, so he enrolled on the ‘Go Construct’ course with Eat That Frog. This unique programme, run in partnership with Job Centre Plus, offers people the chance to gain their health and safety qualification and their CSCS Labourer’s Card, whilst carrying out two weeks’ practical work experience.
Colin helped with the renovation of The Pad in Paignton, carrying out cleaning, painting and decorating. He says: “I spent two weeks working with a great team, taking a bit of banter, which really made my confidence go up and get past my problems with meeting people. I really enjoyed feeling useful and going to places I’d not been before. I also learned how to do jobs properly, for example taking the safety precautions for working at height, which will hopefully prevent me from having accidents in the future.”
He says that the course has been a huge boost to his confidence and career prospects: “If I hadn’t been on the course, I wouldn’t have been able to get the job I want - I already have 4 offers of work. I learned to keep pushing myself, that I was capable of a lot more than I thought I was. As a result of being at Eat That Frog, I’ve stopped thinking that I can’t do stuff – I now know I can get off my backside and do it! Actually seeing the work at The Pad completed was brilliant – it made me feel that I’ve made a difference for local people for the future.”
When I joined ETF in September 2017 I had been out of education for a year and didn’t really know where I was going in life after suffering with anxiety and depression for years.
Having been at ETF for over 6 months now I’m much more confident, I’ve recently been discharged from CAMHS and in September I am going to college, after getting my GCSE results, to continue my education and hopefully continue on to university.
Lidia Came to Eat That Frog in 2015 through our multiple barrier support service, suffering with severe anxiety and confidence issues. She spent a brief spell at our Plymouth kitchen but was unable to cope with the wide diversity of the other students and completely stopped engaging with our services.
She then agreed to attend our Paignton branch for one day a week, but due to her anxiety, she had to be brought to the kitchen by her mother. That first day was hugely difficult for her; she spent long periods of time hiding in the bathroom. Our Chef Tutor talked with her on a 1:1 level to reassure her that she was in a safe environment and no-one would make her do anything she didn’t want to do.
4 weeks later Lidia’s mum asked if her daughter could now attend twice a week as she was enjoying it so much and we were raising her confidence levels. She was helping the tutor plan menus and even began to help fellow students with tasks. This again was a big sign of the growing confidence Lidia had gained. 8 weeks in, Lidia was attending 3 times a week and her mum was able to drop her off outside the front of the building for her to make her own way to the kitchen. Staff and customers started to greet her as she entered the building and Lidia felt comfortable enough to say hello and goodbye back.
After 16 weeks, Lidia was ready for work experience. Our tutor made a phone call to a cafe in Newton Abbot and asked if they could give a placement. Lidia was very anxious about the interview but said she would go as long as her tutor went to the first meeting with her. When Lidia turned up as planned for her first day’s work at the cafe, everyone at ETF was elated – even more so when 4 weeks into Lidia’s work experience we had a phone call, flowers and a card from her parents to thank us, saying that we had changed Lidia’s life for the better.
In May 2016 we received a phone call from Lidia’s mum, to once again thank us for all we had done for Lidia and to tell us that that she’d been accepted for an apprenticeship at a Patisserie shop in Dartington. Eat That Frog really does change lives…. Ask Lidia!
James started with Eat That Frog in November 2017 after struggling at College. He was studying Hospitality and Catering but was finding learning in a large group very difficult and was being severely bullied by students on higher level courses in the same department.
James had low confidence and felt uncomfortable around other people, but since attending ETF James has come out of his shell, improved his confidence immensely and built strong friendships with other students. He will be leaving ETF this year with his NVQ Level 1 in Food Preparation and Cooking, and is currently undergoing a 4-week work experience at the Grand Hotel with the prospect of being offered an Apprenticeship with them. James will also be leaving with a fiancé he met here at The Pad!
James really enjoyed his time with ETF and wishes he could stay for longer; he suits the relaxed learning atmosphere and thinks it is much better than College. He has fond memories from this year and is grateful that he gained a routine and a reason to leave the house in the morning.
He’s now looking to the future and feels more confident he will succeed in the catering industry and have a purpose to life both professional and personal - all thanks to Eat That Frog.
Mark came to Eat That Frog at a young age – he had recently moved from Bath and was living in a hostel with his Nan. He’d been out of education for several years because of severe bullying and was “drowning in misery”.
Since joining us 3 years ago Mark has been studying Catering – he progressed through the Award in Catering then completed NVQ level 1 and 2 in Food Production and Catering and improved his Functional Skills.
Over that time Mark has also built great friendships - he has grown in confidence and is now able to socialise with friends, which he could never imagine doing three years ago, but he can now go out to the shops alone. For him, this is a massive achievement - and he’s justifiably pleased with his progress.
Mark’s highlight at ETF was looking after Mary J, an elderly customer from the Over 50’s lunch club; he’s also enjoyed making cakes for functions, including birthday cakes.
Mark says he’s less miserable now and leaves ETF every day with a smile on his face. He’ll be staying with us next year but moving to the Torquay Centre to develop his new passion for Photography by studying Digital Media with Functional Skills. He’s excited to see what next year holds and is looking forward to being in a new centre and meeting new students.
Sam joined Eat That Frog in September 2017 after struggling with the pace and workload of being a level 2 student at College. From the beginning of term Sam was eager to learn but faced a few challenges due to lack of focus and fear of failure. Having built up his confidence in his work and supporting him through his tougher times we have been able to see Sam shine to become a focused and confident student.
While at Eat That Frog Sam’s living status has gone from living in care to independently living in shared housing in Newton Abbot. During this process staff assisted by building up Sam’s independent living skills, including clothes washing, cooking, personal hygiene and budgeting.
Sam has successfully completed his City and Guilds NVQ Level 2 in Food Production and Cooking, doing work experience in-house with our Over 50’s Lunch Club.
Sam is now actively looking for full time employment and has worked with our employability tutor and employer engagement tutor to improve his C.V. and cover letter, and to practise his interview skills. Sam has been helped to apply for jobs in Newton Abbot and has already been offered several interviews. Good luck Sam!