The Birmingham Mail reports that a derelict community center, opened by and named in honor of boxing legend Muhammad Ali, which has long gone in a state of disrepair, is to get a new lease of life as a Caribbean cooking academy. Backers of the new project hope that the young chefs they train up will create a Caribbean version of the Balti Triangle in Birmingham.
The council has agreed to hand over the boarded up Muhammad Ali Centre in Ickneild Street, Hockley, to Kajans. It hopes to start training the first 90 teenage cooks from September 2013. If successful, up to 300 students could eventually be trained to go out and either work in existing restaurants and hotels, or set up their own.
The centre will also be opened up under a £1.8million transformation programme for wider community use, hosting performing arts classes, healthy living centre, and Gospel singing academy. Kajans director Hermine McIntosh said: “The dream is that we will train the young chefs and entrepreneurs who will go out and create a Caribbean cooking and restaurant centre similar to the Balti Triangle. “This centre has huge significance for the local community, specifically, though not solely the African-Caribbean community.”
Caribbean chefs believe that there is an untapped market for the cuisine and they could be as successful as the Chinese and Balti restaurants in the city. Among the first intake of students, they hope to recruit 14-16 year olds who will complete their schooling at the Academy by finishing their core GCSEs, like English and Maths, while taking catering courses.