Budding chefs with Down Syndrome to cater for cyclists

Dylan White


Dylan White

A culinary instructor has applauded the “fantastic attitude” of her students with Down syndrome in the build up to the 15th annual Tour de Munster charity cycle.

A culinary instructor has applauded the “fantastic attitude” of her students with Down syndrome in the build up to the 15th annual Tour de Munster charity cycle.

Down Syndrome Ireland’s (DSI) Tipperary branch started cookery classes last year for adults with the genetic condition, with more than 30 members attending classes in four locations throughout the county including Cahir, Tipperary town, Ballycahill and Nenagh.

These promising chefs will serve up a selection of deserts for the cyclists on August 6th when they stop for tea at 12pm at Clonmel Óg clubhouse, and at 2pm the same day another group of chefs will cater for cyclists in Ballykisteen.

This is the 6th year that DSI has been the beneficiary of the annual cycle, which takes place from Thursday 6th to Sunday 9th August.

Having raised a phenomenal €1.35 million over the past five years for the Munster branches of DSI, Tour de Munster has developed close ties withthe charity. It’s DSI’s biggest fundraiser, with many of the charity’s parents and friends participating in the 640km cycle year after year. 

Cookery teacher Eileen O’Donnell runs two types of classes – a regular class and a gluten free class. From day one, she has focused on the students ability, and “they have huge ability” she tells South Tipp Today.

“The cookery classes help give these adults with Down syndrome independence, so that they can help the parent as the parent gets older. My students have plenty of potential and have come on a long way since the beginning of their cooking adventure. They are now well able to prepare a complete meal, and are looking forward to serving up some treats for the cyclists next month,” Eileen says.

Catriona Pollard’s 28-year-old son Brian attends one of the classes in Cahir, and Catriona says they have “really helped him broaden his horizons”. Catriona explains: “At first I was apprehensive about letting Brian cook, but Eileen’s classes are absolutely super. She has all the implements required, and she helps the students prepare the food and also do the washing up. The classes have made Brian more aware of what he eats, and he has even started bringing in his own recipes to the centre he attends at Knocklofty.

The Tipperary branch’s chairperson, Marie Kenny, says it’s DSI’s intention to get transition year students on board in September to accompany the cookery students to the supermarket so that they can identify the ingredients needed to prepapre a meal.

“It is so wonderful to see the pride and the confidence our members gain from this experience, and also it showcases to the wonderful cyclists how the funds that they raise for Down syndrome Tipperary are used to improve the lives of our members and to help them become more independent and active members of society. This is an essential life skill for our members, which includes looking up recipes, planning menus, shopping for ingredients and managing money”.

Marie also notes that Down syndrome Tipperary do not receive any state funding, and they rely heavily on fundraising and the generosity of the general public. “Event organisers are appealing to people to show their support for the cyclists as they pass through Tipperary and give a shout out, a wave and a well done thumbs up for these wonderful men and women who have given their time and energy to raise much needed funding for DSI. All the money raised by the cyclists goes directly to the six Munster county branches of DSI and cyclists cover all of their own costs for the four days on the road.

“Volunteers will be collecting on the streets in Cahir and Tipperary Town on Thursday, August 6th and in Thurles and Nenagh on Friday, August 7th so please support your local branch and become part of the ‘Share the Journey’ appeal. Together, with the dedication and commitment of the Tour de Munster cyclists and Paul Sheridan, the Tour Organiser, more people will be helped in a practical way to reach their full potential. See you on the road,” Marie adds.