The Plant Room cafe opening at Horsley.

Horsley Plant Room cafe causing a stir

The opening of the second The Plant Room Café created a slice of history after successfully launching at the HammondCare village at Horsley.

In an Australian first, employees with disability are now working in a social enterprise co-located in a dementia care village.

The Plant Room Café, operated by The Disability Trust, is serving barista-made coffee with beans from Illawarra-based Seven Hills and quality fresh food.

After opening in October, the café is catering to the needs of the local community as well as HammondCare Horsley residents, their visitors and staff.

Located at Shone Ave, Horsley, next to a children’s playground that HammondCare provides for the benefit of visitors and the local community, it follows on from the original The Plant Room Café at The Disability Trust’s Wollongong head office. 

HammondCare Chief Executive Officer Mike Baird opened The Plant Room alongside The Disability Trust’s, CEO, Carol Berry.

“We are delighted The Disability Trust has chosen to operate this café at Horsley that has potential to change the lives of people as they pick up new skills and experience,” he said.

“HammondCare is aligned with The Disability Trust in our values and our mission to improve the quality of life of people who have needs or require support.

“Offering a café on our Horsley site, like the playground, is an important way for HammondCare to connect our aged care home with the local community.”
Carol added that The Plant Room’s philosophy was to create a more inclusive world through employees and customers alike having a fantastic experience. 
 “We want our staff to feel safe to practise their skills as well as produce high quality food and coffee,” she said. 
“Our goal with this venture is to develop the skills and experience of our supported employees so they can pursue open employment in the hospitality industry, should they choose to do so, and to maximise the chances of that transition being a great experience for them and their future  employers.
”Four supported employees have begun work with the café, learning the skills of the trade from experienced colleagues, including local chef Lorenzo Pagnan, with another new staff member starting up soon in mid-December.
The Disability Trust’s Illawarra Regional Manager – Community Programs, Michael Norris, said the staff are thriving at the café.
“The team have seen many local residents from HammondCare and the surrounding suburbs come and visit the café and it’s created its own fantastic vibe,” he said. 
“We’re looking forward to seeing the café grow and the new opportunities this will create for all of our valued supported employees.”
Lorenzo, who has experience at Illawarra establishments such as Ristorante Due Mezzi, Sweet Lips and the Cheeky Fig, will oversee training and food preparation.
“These supported employees will be taught to work in a fully operational kitchen with commercial equipment like coffee machines and the challenge of preparing food to order,” he said.
“It’s not a case of taking the lid off something and zap in the microwave for 30 seconds.”
Isabella, one of the new employees at the café, is relishing the chance to build a career in the hospitality industry. 
 “I always loved cooking and wanted to build on my confidence as I have always been quite shy,” she said.
The Plant Room Café at Horsley is open for coffee, snacks and café food, Monday to Saturday from 8am until 2.30pm.

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