Spectacular gourmet dinner events are being held at Lauro’s Brasserie, Fareham, this week to celebrate 100 years of Open Sight Hampshire’s support for visually impaired residents, 20 years of Lauro Aman as chef/patron of his renowned restaurant plus publication of Penny Melville-Brown’s “A cook’s tour: Baking Blind goes global” memoire.

Penny described the close links: “Lauro was the invaluable culinary expert adviser when I started the international prize-winning Baking Blind world tour.   As he and his wife, Carol, retire after two decades of running the Brasserie, he wanted to mark the event with these fund-raising dinners.   Open Sight was the obvious charity to benefit: during the pandemic, they have organised my on-line cooking demonstrations for other blind people in Hampshire and further afield.  Being able to launch the book of my global adventures, two near-death experiences and masses of international recipes at the same time is an added bonus.  These dinners show how good food and cooking bring people together and break down barriers such as disability.  We will be enjoying Lauro’s wonderful food, good company and the chance to help others – a brilliant combination.” Penny’s book offers insight into transition due to sight loss from successful naval career to entrepreneur, challenges of living with blindness and how to win a small fortune (www.pennymelvillebrown.com).

Chair of Open Sight Hampshire and guest-of-honour at the final dinner, Sue Walker, said, “In our special centenary year of helping people with visual impairments across Hampshire, we are delighted to highlight the importance of healthy food to everyone living with disability.   Being able to prepare and cook food, share with family and friends or just feed yourself is central to living as independently as possible and maintaining social contacts.   Throughout the pandemic, we were able to reduce isolation, share skills and inspire our members and others around the world in their own kitchens using online demonstrations by Penny, which were either live or hosted on YouTube.  These were a fantastic success.  We are immensely grateful to Lauro and Carol for using their retirement to raise more funds for our work: the generosity and care shown by them is the essence for helping others in our community.” Open Sight is holding more events to raise funds, generate donations and encourage volunteer help throughout this centenary year.  Learn about their activities and support at https://www.opensight.org.uk.

After months of planning these exceptional dinners, Lauro was ready to share a glimpse of the international menu that reflects his cuisine of the last 20 years, saying, “I have drawn on the traditional food of my own Filipino heritage and added dishes from other countries as far afield as Thailand, Japan, Mexico and Italy.   Throughout the decades, Carol and I have hosted monthly special dinners featuring dishes and ingredients from around the world.  We have a huge group of immensely loyal customers as a result so it is no surprise that, without any promotion, these two charity dinners were fully booked months ahead.  Many of our customers are donating raffle prizes to support our events and boost the fund-raising.  We are very proud and immensely touched that news of our retirement has produced a strong response that will benefit many local blind people.  It is a great conclusion to our time at the restaurant and all the friends and supporters we have gained over the years.”

Stop Press: I’ve just been approached by a final year undergraduate at London South Bank University who is designing a new kitchen gadget for visually impaired people: combination peeler/chopping board.   Watch this space for more news once I’ve had a go with the prototype.   May try to include it in the next on-line demo 1030 on Monday 9 May (a no-churn ice-cream and lemon curd).   Sign up for free at: https://zingy-spring-dessert-open-sight.eventbrite.co.uk

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