The Autism Society Philippines (ASP) is a national, non-profit organization dedicated to the well-being of persons with autism spectrum disorder. The ASP has been in the forefront of providing services and training to families living with autism.

14 May 2015

Project GourmA launched at Gourmet Gypsy Art Cafe

The Autism Society Philippines, through its A-OK Philippines program, aims to build an autism-inclusive society by working with government, businesses and schools to create institutional mechanism that inspire autism-friendly spaces, compassionate workplaces, more professionals on the spectrum and livelihood opportunities for PWAs and their families.

As a subset of this herculean effort, Project GourmA (pronounced gur-'mey) was created to showcase the abilities of individuals with autism in the food and restaurant industry. For the launch, we partnered with Gourmet Gypsy Art Cafe along Roces Avenue, Quezon City, which employs individuals with developmental disabilities as cooks, waiters and office clerks. We wanted to provide the general public an opportunity to experience what it feels to be among PWAs working in a full-service restaurant.



Chef Waya Araos-Wijangco, Executive Chef of Gourmet Gypsy Art Cafe, quarterbacked the effort, making sure the the team, the restaurant and the menu was ready that evening. Chef Waya also leads the Open Hands School for Applied Arts where many of her staff were training in skills valuable in the restaurant industry. Endearing was how Chef Waya treated her team. She showers them with guidance and kudos; but as-a-matter-of-factly call out errors -- whether the worker have a disability or no. That, is true inclusion.

On 9 May 2015, Gourmet Gypsy served 120 appreciative diner -- family, friends and inclusion advocates all -- a delightful 4-course meal, as Nica Escasinas, a young lady with autism, serenaded the diners with her sweet voice and acoustic guitar. Carl Veluz, who is also on the spectrum, greeted diners and handed out roses to mothers.  But the evening's stars were the servers and cooks of Gourmet Gypsy -- among them, PWA Ibarra Gargantiel, who had just come from a much-applauded demonstration at the Madrid Fusion Manila Trade Expo of the Pinipig-Crusted Lapu-lapu with Spicy Coco Mango Pasta -- the highlight of the evening's menu.


Thank you to Rodolfo Alcantara, Jr., the artist whose stylized pointillism acrylic on canvas paintings adorned the cafe's walls, for donating a percentage of the sale of his art to Autism Society Philippines!

To friends from Chain Reaction, Manila Water Foundation, Philippines Association of Speech Pathologists, SM Cares, Tulay Foundation, Unilab and other partners; as well as ASP families who came out to dine -- thank you!

Steve Maraboli said "Acceptance makes an incredible fertile soil for the seeds of change.” May this experience be the start of a fascinating journey for these budding food industry professionals and the dining public.

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