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3 Michelin star chef has inclusive ice cream parlor in USA


Instagram Jordi Roca

Adriana Bello - published on 08/04/23

Famous Spanish pastry chef Jordi Roca has an ice cream parlor in Houston that employs neurodiverse people.

In these times, the word “inclusion” is heard a lot, but less so when it comes to people with disabilities. Famous pastry chef Jordi Roca (named World’s Best Pastry Chef in 2014) suffers from cervical dystonia, a rare neurological disease that has caused him to lose his voice. In 2022, inspired by this experience,he and his wife opened a very special branch of his Rocambolesc ice cream parlor in Houston, Texas.

This branch employs people with autism and IDD (intellectual and developmental disabilities) who serve up delicious ice cream treats inspired by Chef Jordi’s desserts at El Celler de Can Roca (which has three Michelin stars).

In an interview with the Spanish newspaper El País, Chef Jordi said that he believes it’s important to “increase public awareness through these job opportunities and support the career potential of workers.”

The initiative was made possible through an alliance with “organizations specializing in educational and training programs for people with neurological differences” in Houston. Together, they help neurodiverse teenagers and young adults succeed in their jobs, thus allowing them to have options for growth and independence in their lives.

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A post shared by ROCAMBOLESC (@rrrocambolesc)

Chef Jordi was a guest this season on the show Master Chef Spain. He took advantage of the opportunity to share news about this initiative with the judges, contestants, and fans of the show.

“Half of the staff has neurological deficiencies, such as kids with Down syndrome or autism, which makes it very cool to integrate them,” he said. “They’re wonderful kids and the idea is that when we grow in the United States, everything can be like that, that everything has this criterion of equality.” Judge and chef Samantha Vallejo-Nágera (who has a child with Down syndrome) replied, “How wonderful! I think we need these initiatives to have a more inclusive society.”

Happiness and ice cream

For Roca, “ice cream is happiness” because “when you eat something at low temperature, it causes your senses to be stimulated, so it’s a fun stimulus that inevitably takes you back to childhood, to the first time you ate ice cream, to summer, to happy memories,” he told the YouTube channel Iceteam1927.

Likewise, in the interview with El País, his wife Alejandra Rivas said they wanted to “open new horizons to fill the world with sweetness and happiness in the form of ice cream.”

Hopefully Chef Jordi can replicate this model elsewhere in the US and around the world.

Many people with disabilities (physical or mental), given the right tools and support, can find a more secure place in society and achieve their independence. It is also up to us as consumers to be more empathetic when a person with any neurodivergence or other difference provides a service to us. By being more supportive and appreciative, we can help make this world a much sweeter place.

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