Essex Community Foundation

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Building brighter futures

7th October 2019

A bright future beckons for Caolan Orchard, who has transformed his life and is on the right path to achieve his ambition of becoming a chef.

His destiny could have been completely different, because, in his own words, Caolan was a “vagabond” when he was younger, taking and selling drugs, becoming homeless and even spending 18 months in a young offender’ institution for petty theft and drugs offences.

The custodial sentence gave him stability for the first time in his life and made him vow to reform and build a better future for himself.

Thanks to his determination, the support of his employers at Tymperleys restaurant in central Colchester and a grant from Essex Community Foundation (ECF) he has now completed an NVQ course in professional cookery at Colchester Institute which will take him closer to his goal of being a chef.

“I have always loved food and cooking and I love the energy, heat and creativity of the kitchen,” said Caolan, whose name, which has Irish roots, is pronounced Kee-lan.

“I have had a lot of different jobs ever since I was 13, but Tymperleys is the best place I have ever worked. I started out washing dishes, moved on to be a kitchen assistant and then took on the role of commis chef.

“I have learned so much here and it has given me a great opportunity. I always wanted to have a career established before I was 30, rather than lots of different trades, but never found anything before that I could really get into.

“Now I am coming up to the age of 30 and I am where I want to be. It’s been hard work, but my whole life has completely changed. I can run a kitchen serving 80 to 90 people and know that if need be, I can step up to the role of head chef. 

“My childhood was very turbulent and my family was affected by separation, drugs and alcohol. We moved around a lot and I was never able to settle at school. I started doing drugs and selling drugs myself and struggled with my mental health, even thinking at times about killing myself.

“I have had a few encounters with death, but I do believe that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Going to prison actually gave me the stability I needed, and I decided that I had had enough of slumming it, being homeless and having no direction in my life.

“I took any opportunity I could to gain some education, came out of drugs and found a way forward with an ambition to be a chef.

“The faith shown in me by Tymperleys over the past three years and receiving the grant from ECF to take the course at Colchester Institute have given me the best opportunities to turn my life around, move ahead and use my new found skills.”

Caolan is now planning to move to Cornwall, where his mother and one of his sisters live and says, “One day I would love to have my own Caribbean restaurant mixed with English classics. “

Caroline Taylor, chief executive of ECF said, “We were delighted to be able to help Caolan with a grant from our Opportunity Fund towards his tuition fees for his college course.

“ECF has a small number of educational funds which focus on buildings skills and increasing employment opportunities for young people. We can award grants to help young people who want to undertake training but who struggle financially to cover all the costs. 

“One vocation offering very good career opportunities is hospitality, catering and even training to be a chef.  Tymperleys is an excellent example in the support they have given Caolan.”

To find out more about grants available from ECF, please call 01245 356018.