The Empower Culinary & Hospitality School, Sri Lanka's premier culinary and hospitality facility was recently granted World Association of Chefs Societies (WACS) recognition.

WACS is a World Chefs body consisting of 10 million chefs and the Empower Culinary & Hospitality School is the only culinary training institute in Sri Lanka to hold this prestigious title.

This facility provides new avenues for underprivileged and marginalised youth with empowerment through education in the gastronomy and hospitality industry of Sri Lanka. The school is an outcome of the philosophy of MJF Foundation Settlor Merrill J. Fernando that, business is a matter of human service. Founded on the principle that every individual has the ability to succeed and the right to that opportunity, the Empower Culinary & Hospitality School was established by Dilmah Founder Merrill J. Fernando to offer the underprivileged an opportunity to rise above their circumstances, the Dilmah Group said in a media release.

The WACS recognition comes in the wake of the graduation of its inaugural batch. The announcement was made by WACS Education Director, John Clancy during the gala graduation night, held on February 7 at the Empower Culinary & Hospitality School in the presence of 140 School Of Tea participants who have flown down to Sri Lanka from different parts of the world.

During the event, Mr. Clancy acknowledged that the school is an institute having a high standard of training and skills development to continue professional development. The citation recognises the development and delivery of the culinary training programme, to be on par with global standards.

"When WorldChefs were invited to assess the programme, we were absolutely delighted and honoured to do so and we spent some time going through the programme. The learning material that is there is just absolutely top class.

The facilities are just exceptional; right down to the whole learning environment, the facilities upstairs for students where they can study on computers. There's an array of cookery books. It's still building and I really do believe that it is going to be an amazing success story. The word, 'empower' says so much," he emphasised.

Managed by an eminent team of Governors - Bernd Uber, Peter Kuruvita, Rohan Fernandopulle and Dilhan C Fernando, the school uses an intensive training method, to provide selected students -those with physical disabilities and youth from rural communities and the plantation sector in Sri Lanka with comprehensive knowledge and international perspectives on cuisine and hospitality. The four month culinary course offered by the school, totally free of charge, is equal to the best in the world with visiting international professionals supplementing the Sri Lankan faculty. Culinary empowerment spans the fundamentals of nutrition through personal discipline, English, cooking skills, information technology and menu planning.

Built to the standards of a commercialized kitchen, the culinary unit is equipped with the latest technology and kitchenware needed to train chefs in all areas, such as hot and cold cooking and baking. Not forgetting those that maybe wheelchair bound, it also includes a station which is specifically designed to allow their ease-of-access.

Elaborating on the philosophy behind the initiative, Merrill J Fernando said that, although Dilmah Tea is known worldwide for its quality, the philosophy that is driving Dilmah Single Origin Tea is little known.

"Dilmah is not just the best cup of tea but it is a cup that cheers the poor and the needy. I have made the poor look to Dilmah for various kinds of relief and support and the wealth I have acquired is going back to the poor.

At the MJF Charitable Foundation, we have a variety of activities bringing hope and sunshine to the poor and the disabled. The school is another source of providing hope and happiness to the poor and the disabled. About 90 per cent of the children who passed out came from our estates; children of tea pickers never had a hope of achieving such a position in life," he explained.

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