Sip N Bite is managed by a team of 16 special adults
Inside the cafe, 16 young men and women can be spotted cooking in the kitchen, serving hungry customers with an amiable smile or diligently calculating the bills. Their expertise and sincerity are sure to evoke awe, more so when someone learns that they have been diagnosed with Autism, Down’s Syndrome and other cognitive challenges. Genetic anomalies might have posed multiple obstacles throughout their lives, but have failed to dampen their soaring spirits.
The team of sixteen adults currently employed at Sip N Bite were all trainees at Transcendent Knowledge Society at one point, a skill development centre for special youngsters founded by Amrita Roy Chowdhury, a dynamic mother.
The mothers who started it all
“We offered a wide range of skill-based training at our centre. But, soon, the parents realised that the present scenario curtails their career prospects up to the training only. There is very less opportunity available for these youngsters to put their training to use in a professional setup and earn through it. We thought, why don’t we start something for them?” shares Amrita, in a conversation with Efforts For Good.
In collaboration with South Kolkata Parashmani, a parent-run organisation for their special children, Amrita and a group of five mothers started Sip N Bite at 13A, Lake Road, Kolkata last year – inside a handicrafts store. The cute and catchy name of the place was suggested by the group of workers themselves.
Aside from the outlet, Sip N Bite also puts up kiosks and stalls at corporate premises on special requests.
“Twenty chefs rejected our invite to train the employees”
Amrita recalls, “We never imagined that our youngsters would work so devotedly and with such perfection. These people were initially trained according to their passion, their communication skills and their grasping abilities. Before starting the cafe, we selected 16 of our best performers and invited professional chefs to train them. Twenty chefs rejected us upfront, one after another, for one reason or the other. Finally, the 21st and 22nd chefs graciously welcomed our students and mentored them for months. After a successful pilot project, we inaugurated the cafe finally in 2018.”
Food is the primary (and only) focus
All the workers at Sip N Bite are adults, aged between 20 and 40 years. A few of them were proud first-time voters in the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections. Amrita admits that the work has helped them evolve immensely. “They have had incredible personal growth,” she reiterates.
The employees work on a shift basis which entitles one to work for not more than four to five hours a day. A few of their mothers also assist them in the daily kitchen and counter chores.
“Our primary and exclusive focus is the food and only the food. We never ever portray the disabilities of our workers, rather we promote the exemplary breakfast platters cooked by them. And, I would admit that the response has been amazing from our customers. People keep coming back over and over again to enjoy the food in our soothing ambience,” shares Amrita.
The strategic location of the cafe near the morning walkers’ hub has been a boon for Sip N Bite, as hordes of young and old walkers keep pouring in for having a hearty meal and interacting with the amazing youngsters working there.
The baking skills of the Sip N Bite employees have been so widely acclaimed that the franchise is willing to launch their mobile bakery van soon.
Buying a mobile phone with first salary
Sip N Bite was started with the main aim of economically and socially rehabilitating special individuals. “Even today, there is a subtle sense of sympathy for many special individuals, often from their own extended families. But, here, they have become full-time professionals like every other adult and their families could not be more proud,” narrates Amrita.
However, the happiness of the employees overwhelms everything else. One of them purchased a mobile phone with his first salary, while another shyly expressed his desire to have a girlfriend, now that he has a stable job in life.
For the first-time voters in the team, it was exhilarating to go to the polling booth and stand in a queue – as equal as every citizen of India. One of the voters posted on her Facebook wall how happy she feels after ‘executing her democratic right’. This is exactly where lies the success of Sip N Bite mentor team – to help them grow as individuals and stand on their own feet in every aspect of the phrase.