'Cook-tastic' project to feed both body and mind

Chef Chris Kelly.
Chef Chris Kelly.

A Carrickfergus chef is lending his skills to a new culinary project in an effort to raise awareness of mental health issues.

Chris Kelly will be working with youth organisation Carrick Connect to deliver 'Cook-tastic', a series of sessions aimed at teaching young people skills vital to the catering and hospitality industry.

Carrick Connect works with young people in the area.

Carrick Connect works with young people in the area.

The project will culminate with pop-up restaurant The Bucky Gelder in May, with all proceeds from the event going towards the work of Carrick Connect.

The not-for-profit organisation, which recently received a funding boost of £10,000 towards its mentoring service, works with young people from the ages of 11 to 25 years.

Chris, 22, recently returned to the town after working for a number of high-end restaurants in London, including The Goring Hotel.

He also worked alongside 2018 Great British Menu winner James Cochran at 12:51.

"As happy as I am to be home, I can't help but notice the incredible rate of suicides and increasing cases of severe mental illness in the Carrickfergus to Belfast area," Chris said.

"I wanted to find a way to help or at least spread awareness of the situation, so this summer me and a few chef friends will be doing what we know and love best to try and make a difference in the area by doing a pop up tasting menu."

The young chef, who began his training at the La Mon Hotel aged 18, now works at Stock Kitchen in Belfast with chef Danny Millar.

He will be delivering the Cook-tastic programme with Carrick Connect over the coming months.

Tracey McNickle, project coordinator with Carrick Connect explained: "The young people will be taught how to prepare food and cook, visit suppliers, and wait tables as well as front of house skills and team-work.

"The programme will encourage young people to be part of the story and they will have the privilege of working alongside professional chefs.

"Chris will also be holding Cook-tastic sessions for us in the summer months. We are thankful to be working in partnership with him and welcome him also as our new committee member with Carrick Connect."

A venue and date for The Bucky Gelder pop-up have yet to be confirmed.

Organisers are seeking a coffee shop or restaurant that can rent or lease their facilities for the event.

For more information and updates, see Carrick Connect's Facebook page.