One of the country’s most acclaimed Michelin-starred chefs headed to the North East to officially open the UK’s first hotel which trains young people with autism and learning difficulties.
Michel Roux Jr – who runs London’s world renowned Le Gavroche hotel as well as being a veteran of numerous television shows – was at the launch of Gateshead’s The Vault yesterday, now renamed The Rivers Hotel, following its £2m refurbishment.
The chef has a long track record of mentoring young people to help them find work in the hospitality industry and agreed to head north to meet the young trainees and officially unveil the completed hotel.
Roux said, “What the hospitality industry needs is places like this. 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 right by the river.
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.”
He continued, “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.
“We were thrilled that he agreed to come and glad that he seemed really impressed about what we are doing.”