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In the Kitchen at Headway East

April 18, 2013
by the gentle author

Joseph Trivelli, Head Chef at the River Cafe, spends his day off each week working in the kitchen with members at Headway East, the community centre for people who have acquired brain injuries, either through accident or some other cause. Last week, Joseph and his team prepared a three-course dinner for thirty-five as a fund-raiser for the centre, so Contributing Photographer Patricia Niven and I went along to see what was cooking.

Even at three in the afternoon, we were welcomed by an appetising fragrance in the kitchen as the Joseph’s proteges Oliver, Jason and Keith put together fillets of lemon sole with hops, peas, olives, fresh oregano and onions, ready for baking in paper packets. Joseph’s dinner comprised a menu of seasonal ingredients that could be prepared in advance and then cooked freshly to be delivered from the oven to the table that evening. By five, we ogled as they rolled sheets of pasta through the machine and then piped a filling of salt cold onto it in bite-sized portions that were wrapped up into convincingly professional ravioli.

At six, Oliver sliced kohlrabi and Jason chopped carrots as crudites for starters, then Keith cut up tomatoes to make a sauce for the ravioli. Meanwhile, Joseph made ice cream to accompany the rhubarb served with Oliver’s shortbread. And there was just time for the team to slip into their chef’s whites in order to welcome the diners as they began to arrive at seven. They had paid £30 each for their dinner served at long tables under a railway arch.

“I’m not just here for them, I’m here so I can try things I couldn’t do at work,” Joseph Trivelli admitted to me, quietly proud of his team as service commenced.

Oliver Herz

” I made the shortbread to go with the rhubarb – I think I’ve got a slight advantage in that my wife is from Scotland. I’ve been coming to Headway since 2003 and cooking breakfast for a dozen people. After my head injury, I lost my job in local government and was given my pension. At first, I came here while I was doing rehabilitation and I liked it, and now I’ve been coming for over ten years. I’ve always been good in the kitchen, though I’ve never been paid to cook. I think it’s to do with the fact that I’m greedy, and I have an allotment so I don’t just cook food, I grow it.”

Jason Lennon

“I was told by one of my support-workers that there was a place where you could come to relax and enjoy the good part of life. Three years, I’ve been coming here to Headway now and it’s really been true. Where I live, it’s not a very nice place for me to be but I have a garden in Abbey Rd where I go most days and grow herbs, carrots, cauliflowers, cabbages and aubergines. I’ve had it five years. I eat the things I grow in vegetable stew. My mother taught me to cook back in Jamaica and I cook at home.”

Keith Emanuel

“I help in the kitchen every Friday at Headway, cooking for the members. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I help out at St Mary’s Secret Garden and I do voluntary gardening for Homerton Hospital – I’m making a garden for the patients. I had a brain haemorrhage about thirteen years ago and they sent me to a place for handicapped people because there was nowhere for those who had a brain haemorrhage. But then someone told me about this place and I’ve been coming here about eight years. Before all this, I used to do catering and I worked for a big catering firm in Oxford St for seven years.”

Joseph Trivelli, Head Chef at The River Cafe

“I was at a bit of a loose end one day and they had built a pizza oven here, so they asked me over to teach people to make pizza dough for a party. But I couldn’t resist coming back to make pizzas myself and it grew from there. I’ve been coming in every week since Christmas on my day off from The River Cafe and we make lunch for thirty members for a couple of pounds each. Tonight we are cooking dinner for thirty-five people as fundraiser, but this is just the very, very beginning of what we could do.”

Preparing the fish parcels.

Lemon sole with hops, peas, olives, spring onions, and fresh oregano, baked in a paper parcel.

Preparing fresh ravioli filled with salt cod.

Serving the ravioli

Photographs copyright © Patricia Niven

If you would like to attend a dinner cooked by Joseph Trivelli and his team contact Headway East


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Miriam Lantsbury, Headway East

6 Responses leave one →
  1. June SB permalink
    April 18, 2013

    Inspirational. I have always thought that those who choose to give are happier people.

  2. April 18, 2013

    That looks wonderful food, and such a great project too.

  3. Libby Hall permalink
    April 18, 2013

    How good to start my day with such lovely happy photographs.

  4. Cherub permalink
    April 18, 2013

    This is such a worthwhile project. A couple of years ago I was a volunteer teaching basic budget cooking to single men, some unemployed, others on disability benefits. A couple of the chaps who came along had suffered head injuries, a third had a back injury and a fourth was recovering from a heart attack. As the weeks progressed so did their confidence and I learned all sorts of things about them.

    It was a great experience for me as well as them and we all enjoyed eating the food for lunch!

  5. April 18, 2013

    What a wonderful project this is, both for those suffering for injury and for everyone else involved. Nothing but good can come of something like this. Thanks for sharing!

  6. April 22, 2013

    your site is beautiful,

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