“You start with whipped egg whites, fold ground almonds and icing sugar through and then bake those into shells. When you take a bite, you go into a soft interior and a creamy middle – three textures and a punchy hit of flavour.”
Rosie Ginday, founder and managing director of Miss Macaroon, is lyrical about the fine confections in which she deals. Hers is the only patisserie in the world that can Pantone colour match her creations – the result of her fine art degree – leading to commissions from fashion houses such as Prada and Karl Largerfeld. But the delicate treat is half of the story.
Beyond the pastel-coloured prettiness, this social enterprise also trains unemployed people aged 18-35 – often young people experiencing difficulties – in kitchen and workplace skills. All profits from Ginday’s business are reinvested in training; 43 people have benefited from the scheme since Miss Macaroon’s pilot course in 2011.
Her work saw Ginday invited to the Royal Wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex: “It was a beautiful day and it felt like a personal celebration,” she says.
Inspiration for the business came from Ginday’s first job. Waiting on tables in her home city of Coventry, she’d find herself chatting to homeless people as she waited to be picked up at the end of her shift. “I got to know a couple of people and one young guy’s story really resonated with me,” she says. “He went to uni, and his mum passed away in a house fire. He fell to pieces and suffered with mental health problems and I thought: ‘If that was me, I’d feel exactly the same way.’ ”
Miss Macaroon, based in Birmingham, offers two training programmes, both of which last eight weeks. The first four are spent learning functional skills like maths, English and employability, and the second four weeks focus on work experience, at which point participants can either choose to head to the production kitchen to learn about catering, or, for those interested in retail, to Miss Macaroon’s Macaroon And Prosecco bar in the Great Western Arcade.
Not all trainees go on to work in food – though some do – but the emphasis is on getting people into employment, whatever that looks like. Tours of local kitchens build networks, mentoring from graduates of the programme enhance aspirations, and everyone leaves the course with interview practice, an up-to-date CV, a five year plan and help applying for jobs for up to six months.
“We had one young guy who had been in trouble with the law and his relationship with his parents had taken a turn for the worse, explains Ginday. “He was sofa-surfing and came on the course and engaged well. He got a job in a restaurant that he’s now been in for three years, has his own flat, has been in a relationship for a couple of years and is now speaking to his parents, so it’s a real turnaround.”
Miss Macaroon works with organisations such as the Department For Work And Pensions, job centres, prison probation programmes, care leavers’ services and women’s refuges. Interested people attend a taster day and can then self-refer to the full course – it doesn’t yield a 100% success rate, Ginday happily admits, but some of the stories that have emerged are remarkable.
It was while working at the Hyatt Regency Hotel that she came up with the granular detail for Miss Macaroon. Why macaroons, in the first instance? “I was looking for something that was complicated enough to keep me interested, but also simple enough that, if someone had never been in a kitchen before, they could try an easy recipe,” she explains.
Ginday is of course, also driven by her love of food. She trained in professional cookery at University College Birmingham before taking a job at Michelin-starred Purnell’s in the city. Here, the technical skill level of the people crafting desserts was amazing. “I’m not naturally a pastry chef, I’m more of a ‘throw it in and taste’ type rather than following instructions to the letter, so it really pushed me out of my comfort zone”.
The vibrant discs Miss Macaroon deals in come in boundless flavour combinations, led by celebrations and the season – “We have 30 on at the moment and we created a medjool date one, for Eid” – although Ginday says her favourite is salted peanut, with a new creation of rhubarb and banana threaded with a slick of maple syrup also getting a shout. With a fine texture, intense pop of buttercream and a touch of meringue-esque resistance in the chew, they’re a premium crafted take on the classic.
The end game, for Ginday, is clear. “To get as many young people into work as possible.” With plans to go from one to three courses per year up to 10, she’s on track for sugar-dusted success.
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