It’s not every day that by merely dining out you get to give something back too. But the next round of Scarf Dinners is just around the corner, so set aside a date night for a feel-good, two-course meal at Northcote’s Two By Two restaurant.
Not-for-profit social enterprise Scarf offers mentored programs to hospitality trainees over a series of workshops and hands-on classes. The trainees then get to put their training into practice in a series of weekly dinners held at Melbourne restaurants happy to lend their kitchens and dining space to Scarf. The next series of Scarf Dinners will kick-off on Monday February 25 and will run at Two By Two for five weeks – to be followed by another five weeks at a yet to be announced venue.
Scarf co-founder Hannah Colman explains that Scarf trainees come from marginalised backgrounds and that training allows them to get the chance to gain “meaningful employment”.
“The trainees are referred to us through places such as the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, Brotherhood of St Laurence and Melbourne Citymission. As a result we work with lots of young people who are refugees, new migrants and asylum seekers, and young people who are disengaged from education," she notes.
Throughout the Scarf hospitality training and mentoring program, trainees learn from some of the best in the industry as they are guided through wine courses, beer and cider training at Little Creatures Dining Hall, cocktail training at Cookie and bar service training at Mr Wow’s Emporium. On Scarf Dinner nights, mentors are on hand to guide the young trainees through the service.
For the first five weeks of the autumn series, chef Ricky Holt has drawn up a two-course menu that comes to only $35 per person. Dinner will start with a sharing plate entree that includes little bites of prosciutto wrapped figs and goat’s cheese, smoked salmon mousse in choux pastry and marinated olives. As for the main course, there is a choice of veal and basil polpette, roast chicken and a four-cheese risotto. Extras include a Tasmanian cheddar cheese and a dessert special.
Holt, who has been working with Scarf since mid-2011, says working with the trainees is a fulfilling experience.
“We work with the same group for a season, so we get to build a relationship with these young people,” he says. “They are never short of enthusiasm and are always eager to learn.”
For the trainees, the journey doesn’t stop at the end of each Scarf season. Colman says two thirds of the Scarf alumni have gone on to work in hospitality. “They get to build important connections in the industry when they start training,” she says. “Past trainees have gone on to work at Number 35 at Sofitel Hotel, Church St Enoteca and Cumulus Inc.”
The Autumn Scarf Dinners start on Monday February 25 and will run every Monday for five weeks at Two By Two. Check the Scarf Community website to see where the next Scarf Dinner will take place.