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August 5, 2021

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Autistic teens finish training program for dim sum chefs

A thrilled Huang Rui waved her hands wildly as she finished baking 20 chocolate cookies in the final examination of a vocational training program for autistic teens.

She celebrated her successful creations alone for a while and then carefully put them on a plate for evaluation by judges.

The 19-year-old was among the first batch of young people with autism who finished their training session offered by a city temple to become professional dim sum chefs.

The eight autistics graduated from the non-profit training session launched by the Jade Buddha Temple’s Juequn Culture and Education Foundation yesterday.

With the certificates issued by the Shanghai Modern Food Vocational Skills Training Center, they are eligible to work for local dim sum companies or restaurants. The vegetarian pastry factory of the temple, which produces popular vegetarian mooncakes and other seasonal snacks, will also offer internships for the graduates.

The products they make will be sold as the “Starry Dessert” brand. Some of the profits will go to help autistic groups.

The program aims to help autistics find jobs and become more involved in society, Hui Jue, secretary-general of the foundation, the main operator of the program, explained.

“We encourage more local food companies to recruit the graduates and give them a new chance in life,” Hui said.

The foundation signed a cooperation agreement with the Shanghai Food Association yesterday to encourage the graduates’ recruitment.

The first batch of graduates passed the final examination at the center by making chocolate cookies. They’ve studied baking for nearly half a year one-to-one with dim sum masters at the center since the program was initiated at the temple late last year.

“Each of them has been able to finish basic dim sum baking without any help — from preparation, ingredients mixing to baking,” said Qian Jinjie, chief master of the program.

She added the autistic students required more patience and bespoke measures.

A student, for instance, liked singing during lessons. Qian encouraged him to sing his favorite songs and follow the rhythms while baking.

“I just like baking because I can share the biscuits with my mom,” Liu Yi, one of the graduates, said simply.

China has over 10 million autistic patients, most of whom can get jobs and be self-reliant with vocational training and studies, the foundation said.


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