“Don’t look at their disability. Look at their ability”: Dignity Kitchen founder on training staff with cerebral palsy to cook

Dignity Kitchen’s founder Koh Seng Choon proves that physical disability is not a barrier to cook wanton mee, as long as the person is willing to learn.

Dignity Kitchen was founded in 2010 and became Singapore’s first hawker training school for disabled and disadvantaged individuals.

In a video interview on Friday (29 January), celebrity food critic and founder of Makansutra KF Seetoh asked the Singaporean entrepreneur on how to train a person with cerebral palsy to cook wanton mee and run a hawker stall.

Cerebral palsy is a physical disability that affects movement and posture that appears during infancy or early childhood resulting from damage to the brain.

In response to the question, Mr Koh pointed out that a disabled person can still communicate and learn.

“Don’t look at their disability. Look at their ability. More importantly is the attitude,” he remarked.

One of his employees with cerebral palsy, for example, impressed Mr Koh with his “willing to learn” attitude.

He noted that Dignity Kitchen provides machines that can aid employees with physical disabilities to cook with just a push of a button so that the staff would only need to add ingredients to the pot.

Mr Koh revealed that he first found the machine in Taiwan but was unable to afford it.

“So I took a picture and I got somebody in Malaysia to fabricate it for me. Change the timing, change everything, then we bring over Singapore and we did it,” he added.

The next challenge would be to train the employee, said Mr Koh.

He explained that training someone with cerebral palsy requires patience because they need to see a step-by-step demonstration of the cooking process multiple times.

“Cooking is like art and science. So for him [the employee] to do that, it takes time,” said Mr Koh.

Mr Seetoh asked on the time needed to train an employee with cerebral palsy, to which Mr Koh noted that it took him three months to guide his employee “slowly” with the machine.

He added that the employee will be paid S$4.50 per hour during the training.

“If you don’t listen, you don’t get paid. If you don’t do, you don’t get paid,” said Mr Koh.

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