Underprivileged youth become entrepreneurs at Cafe Toto

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Kolkata, June 2 (IANS) Donning crisp aprons and trained by French volunteers, young adults from underprivileged backgrounds here are turning into entrepreneurs and taking charge of their life by serving up delectable European fare at the one-of-a-kind restaurant-school Cafe Toto.

Located in south Kolkata’s Chetla area, the restaurant-school is a collaboration between NGO Tomorrow’s Foundation and the French NGO Life Project 4 Youth (LP4Y) with support from the French consulate in Calcutta. It was launched on April 29.

“We are now training 14 youngsters aged between 18-24 years in a one-year course divided into three sections spanning five days a week, where they learn English, IT skills, communication, personal skills and a micro-economic activity which in Toto’s case is cooking,” Constance, a volunteer from France who is the coach for the project, told IANS.

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The cafe can seat 20 people at a time and is open two to three days a week for lunch. The trainees come from different backgrounds: orphans, disabled, victims of domestic violence and others.

“We take in reservations 24-hours in advance and we serve only fresh food. We have recently started home delivery,” Constance said while imparting a lesson in baking.

So what’s on the menu?

“It’s mostly continental and French. It’s all vegetarian. We have items like apple pie, chocolate cake, vegetarian burgers, crepes, taboulis, falafel with pita bread, hummus, gazpacho and so on. Our customers are mainly foreigners and volunteers who have arrived in Kolkata and want to eat some continental fare,” she said.

“Once the youth are trained, we will open for more days,” Constance added.

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