The Guv'nor: Disgusting stance over my wingman

By James Evison contact

- Last updated on GMT

The Guv'nor: Disgusting stance over my wingman

Related tags: Risk, Ben

I was recently asked by a local magazine to host a cookery demonstration at its Christmas fare, as I had done last year.

No fees just a good PR exercise for the pub. We do quite a few during the year for various organisations because we find it’s a great way of showcasing our pub and quality of the food we present. 

Anyway, the slot was booked and time arranged. As a matter of courtesy, I emailed the organiser to let them know that my son now does the demonstrations with me and has done all this year, just to make sure there was no problem.

My son Ben has Down’s Syndrome, so I always feel the need to let them know he will be coming along as my ‘commis chef’ and ‘wingman’. He is able and well capable, even with his condition. He was even chef Brian Turner’s wingman back in February at a demo! A few days passed with no response, so I thought I better follow up and check everything was OK.

Late one day, I finally got a reply, which read: “After having a meeting with all the team to discuss your email you will no longer be required, good luck with the cooking with Ben, it’s fantastic he’s got an interest. Please pass over any information and we may run some editorial on him, we hope to
work with you again in the future.”

I was gutted, horrified and felt physically sick when reading the email, I had to read it over and over again. Had I got it right? Had I taken it in the wrong context? No, we were no longer required but a pat on the back for letting your disabled son cook.

The magazine’s office was, of course, closed for the day, so the morning after I rang until I finally spoke to the author of the horrific email. She had only been in post for two weeks and was totally out of her depth, so I was referred to the managing director. He said ‘health and safety’ was to blame for the refusal to allow Ben to demonstrate.

But then he asked questions. What will Ben do? How old is Ben? Is he capable of doing such a task? Is there a risk? All the questions I would have expected initially to base their decision on.

They didn’t see a problem with the information they had been given over the phone but the damage had been done. They had made a decision on his disability.
I don’t expect everyone to welcome Ben with open arms but to make a decision based on zero information is a stereotypical attitude that went on many years ago — or so I thought.

Within our industry, we hire and train a fantastic array of individuals from the less fortunate to the brightest and able. Thankfully this is to our benefit, and long may that continue.

Related topics: Health & safety

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