The street kitchen for the integration of young people

The Estey’s Bistrots

Novembre 27, 2019

The team of the Estey Social and Cultural Center of Bègles presented its Bistrot Mobile device to several European operators from Malta, Ireland, England and Germany. A look back at a meeting about a nomadic cooking initiative like no other.

On this November morning, it’s chilly in the huge hall of the Estey Social and Cultural Center in Bègles, a town of 27,000 inhabitants near Bordeaux. In the center of the room, about twenty people are crowded around an astonishing bicycle-carriole: “Bistrot mobile de l’Estey”. This strange kitchen bike is the emblem of a street food project, one of the main objectives is the integration of young people in difficulty. 

Here, no pizzas, hamburgers or kebabs, but “batbots”

For Le LABA, the organizing structure of the week of training and exchange around street food in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, the Bistrot mobile is an essential project, as Margaux Velez points out. “It enables young people to gain their first professional experience and acquire the basic skills of a foodtrucker: product supply, stock management, food preparation, service and customer relations. It was important for us to share this experience between cooking and integration with our European partners”. 

Initiated by Charline Fournier and a group of volunteers who are particularly active within the social center, this mini-food truck allows young people – most often minors and in great academic, social or economic difficulty – to have their first professional experience around street food. But beware! Here, no pizzas, hamburgers or kebabs, but traditional Moroccan bread with toppings. Although these “batbots” require few ingredients (flour, semolina, yeast, salt, olive oil and water), they do require quite a bit of skill. Fatima, a great batbot specialist and initiator of young people in this field, is today demonstrating it in front of the participants. She vigorously kneads the dough before making balls and lining them up on a hotplate. While the balls are resting, she joins the group for the continuation of Charline’s presentation of the project. 

Le Bistrot: precursor of the Bistrot mobile

It all started a few years ago with the creation of the Estey Bistrot. Located in the heart of the social center, it has a professional kitchen and a stylishly decorated dining room. In this light-filled place, the inhabitants of the neighbourhood can come and have lunch three times a week. The full menu (starter, main course, dessert) is €6.50. The price of a canteen, except that here, the contents of the plate have nothing to do with a canteen! The service is done by the plate, we take our time, the flavours of the world are never far away and we don’t hesitate to vary the pleasures by inviting from time to time a chef, an inhabitant, an association to take the reins in the kitchen. 

This week, it is Chef Nicolas Cajal who is at the helm alongside the volunteers and employees. Participants will soon taste his cuisine: a fresh starter made with carrot and soy passion sauce, a dish of the day that subtly mixes salmon steak, green lentils and red wine sauce and, finally, delicious fruit profiteroles. “I like to cook healthy and tasty dishes with seasonal products and short circuits” explains Nicolas, who is also convinced, like the Estey team, that cooking creates bonds and facilitates social and professional integration. Integration is the other facet of the Estey Bistrot. Ghizlane and Marina, in the service and in the kitchen, are proof of this, as they are part of the “Employment-Skills Path” scheme, the aim of which is the sustainable inclusion in employment of people furthest from the labour market. 

Another face of youth

Although the Bistrot meets the objectives of sustainable integration and training pathways for adults, the Estey Bistrot needed more work targeted at the integration and mobilisation of young people, and more specifically 15-19 year olds who have dropped out of school or who have dropped out altogether. It was for them that Charline Fournier came up with the idea of the Bistrot mobile, an original and “agile” version of the year-round Bistrot. From the making of the breads to consumer relations, young people identified by the partner structures (ITEP, APSB, the city’s employment service or local mission) are invited for a week to discover all the stages in the life of this unique street kitchen. To accompany them, professionals and volunteers take turns. “With our partners and a group of 4 to 5 volunteers, we worked for 18 months to set up the Bistrot Mobile,” says Charline. “In the summer of 2018, we organized our first action by going from neighborhood to neighborhood to offer our breads”. In all, ten young people between 15 and 18 years old were able to train and work for a week each with real working conditions: “The young people were paid. They were given a contract and working hours. This committed them and was a real step for their future professional life” explains Charline, who is particularly proud to have been able to mobilise financial partners around the scheme. 

Buns to make young people grow up

However, she does not minimize the difficulties: “With sometimes 120 filled breads to prepare and serve in one evening, the workload was sometimes heavy and working five days in a row was difficult for some young people”. However, the benefits seem obvious, as Benoît, a householder at ITEP in Bègles, an establishment for handicapped children and teenagers that is a partner in the project, testifies. He participated and followed all the stages of the Bistrot Mobile and for him, “the mix of people, the change of place, of context, the fact of working with volunteers, outside the walls, all this has been extremely beneficial for our young people”. Marie, deputy director of ITEP, is also convinced by the project: “young people are moving from being passive youths to being citizens, actors and active”. As for Michel, a specialist educator, he welcomes the fact that “if the Bistrot Mobile is a place of reconciliation of young people with adults, it also allows the reconciliation of the young person with himself/herself. He/She can prove that he/she is capable of doing something positive”. 

“Doing something positive” seems to be the leitmotiv even for the volunteers who work on the project from the beginning. “It shows another face of youth,” explains Josiane. Esther is also enthusiastic: “Working with young people, I really enjoyed it, I don’t have another word for it. By listening to them, you learn a lot of things too: about computers, high tech, football, life and the street! It’s a human discovery that’s different every time! ». Fatima concludes with a smile: “The best moments? Those spent with these young people of course! ” 

Go and see what’s happening elsewhere in Europe

While Fatima bakes her breads on a hot plate, a bit like pancakes, the exchanges around the project continue in two groups. This is an opportunity for Le LABA’s European partners to ask technical, financial or organisational questions but also to react: “It’s a really interesting case study. Social centers elsewhere in Europe have the same problems, especially with young people in difficulty. This street food scheme is very inspiring” says Patricia Golden, project manager and volunteer for Momentum Marketing Services Ltd in Ireland. “The Bistrot Mobile ensures that each young person becomes an actor in the project and in some way an actor in his or her own life. It’s a really interesting accompaniment” says Eva-Maria Stroh, a social worker at Kiezkuechen Gmbh in Berlin. Charline can’t believe the interest that the Bistrot Mobile triggers: “It’s great! Listening to their reactions, I realise that what we are doing, without being extraordinary, is still very singular! It adds value to what we do… and also makes you want to go and see what’s happening elsewhere in Europe! “. 

Practical information

Bistrot et Bistrot mobile de l’Estey

20 rue Pierre et Marie Curie
33130 Bègles

Tel +33 (0)5 57 35 13 00

© Sonia Moumen (exchange reporter) for Champs Libres, member of Kus Alliance France

This post is also available in: FrenchGermanPortuguese (Portugal)

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *