Jason Edwards’s love for cooking is a passion and skill the 38-year-old eventually hopes to enjoy in his own kitchen.
The central Queensland man, who lives with a disability, has clocked up 20 years between two major supermarkets stacking milk, pushing trolleys, and greeting customers.
After working up an appetite at bowls each Wednesday, Mr Edwards heads to cooking class.
“I really like doing cooking, it’s good fun,” he said.
Mr Edwards hopes the skills he is learning will come in handy for his future transition to independent living.
“It’s really helped me,” he said.
“I want to live on my own one day. I want to move into a house for myself.”
Former home economics teacher Amanda Rickard has taught Mr Edwards at her Yeppoon business where she offers classes for people of all ages and abilities since it opened in March.
“I hear it all week that this is the best part of their week. They just cannot wait for their lesson to be able to come and learn something for themselves and not rely on others to do things,” she said.
“I know that Jason’s been cooking at home.
“Of the people that’ve been coming the kids just live for it.
“It’s so good to be able to offer that.”
Going back to basics
Six months in, Ms Rickard has run more than 80 cooking, sewing, and gardening classes at Stir & Stitch.
“People cry because they’re so happy to come,” she said.
From kids classes and private lessons with NDIS participants to business bookings and cook and dine nights, Ms Rickard said the demand had been overwhelming.
“People are really wanting to get back to basics,” she said.
“[During] COVID and the lockdown, when everybody was stuck at home and they didn’t have any hobbies and all the food disappeared out of the supermarket, all the packet foods went first.
“Everybody was, like, ‘I don’t know what to cook’.”
Ms Rickard said she had noticed a shift towards sustainability.
“Everybody is really starting to think about the world that we live in, that things aren’t going the way that they should be,” she said.
“To be able to grow your own food, cook your own food, mend the clothes that might just have a tiny hole or stain instead of throwing them in the bin, going to landfill.
“The education is starting to [sink in] so that’s what I’m hearing from a lot of people that are coming here, they just want to learn that stuff.”
Learning valuable life skills
For Olivia Stubbings, her highlight was learning new things.
“I like to learn how to cook with my friends and eat the food, obviously. It’s really good,” she said.
High school student Priya Ramswarup said it was “the best part of the week”.
“Just getting to work together and getting to find out new stuff, but it’s something that really matters, life skills. Doesn’t matter what job you’ve got, you’re doing you need that,” she said.
“It’s something really important, and Amanda makes it so easy to learn how to do it but fun at the same time.
“We miss out on so many opportunities living in a small rural town. It’s nice to have something for the town.
“It’s not something that you would find everywhere, I guess you could say it’s like a hidden gem of Yeppoon.”
‘People are just happy’
With a background in school teaching and private cooking classes, Ms Rickard said taking the leap and stepping away from a traditionally secure career had been a gamble worth taking.
“The community that is building around here in this venue everyday is just amazing,” she said.
“People are just happy to get to go somewhere so pretty and nice, and there are no boundaries of who can come basically.
“It’s exactly the feeling that I wanted and it kind of feels like you’re in grandma’s house. Yeah it’s good, it’s perfect.”
Mr Edwards’s family has already been enjoying his tasty food.
“I cook shepherds pie too, I just have to ask my family what they want me to cook,” he said.
“They all like my cooking.”
The Yeppoon man said there is one thing his Wednesday ritual proves to the world.
“If they had not doubted me, I can do anything,” he said.
“If I put my mind to it, I can do it.”
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