Plans have been revealed for a new Teesside restaurant, The Fork in the Road, which will offer catering job opportunities for ex-offenders, the long term unemployed and recovering addicts.
The previously secret location of the high end eaterie will be on Middlesbrough’s Linthorpe Road, in previously derelict premises once occupied by popular toy shop, Romer Parrish, chosen due to its close proximity to the town’s booming Baker and Bedford Street areas.
The not-for-profit social enterprise will also feature a community café, The Spoon, and Bar Sobrio, a non-alcohol bar.
The fit-out costs and working capital for the unique scheme are being funded through Middlesbrough-based national charity CEO Sleepout and the NHS via assistance from Jonathan Bowden of Middlesbrough Council’s Public Health and Wellbeing Department.
Charity leader and businessman Andy Preston, the founder-chairman of CEO Sleepout and the driving force behind the project, believes there is nothing like The Fork in the Road anywhere in the UK.
“The Fork in the Road will be amazing – it’s been hard work already but it’ll do incredible things,” said Andy, who is also chairman of charitable movement, Middlesbrough and Teesside Philanthropic Foundation. “I’m convinced this is a truly unique project in the UK and will set a new national standard.
“The restaurant will be high end and will always deliver excellence. Alongside very experienced, top class professionals, we’ll train a small cohort of local people who need and deserve that precious opportunity to create a new life for themselves.”
With planning permission recently granted, work is now underway on the two-storey project, with The Spoon and Bar Sobrio planned to open by August, with The Fork in the Road restaurant due for launch around six weeks later.
Andy believes Bar Sobrio will play an important role in Teesside's recovery scene. It won't serve alcohol but it will be a great place to mix with friends and meet people, while the bar will also be made available to hire for private functions.
Bar Sobrio was planned with valuable input from Dot Turton, CEO of Middlesbrough-based recovery service Hope North East, and Rachel Burns of Middlesbrough Council.
The project’s running costs will come from CEO Sleepout, which inspires business leaders to raise funds by being sponsored to sleep rough for a night.
Since its Middlesbrough launch just three years ago, CEO Sleepout has become a national phenomenon, with around £800,000 raised through events held at a series of landmark venues across the country.
Since the first sleepout event at Middlesbrough FC’s Riverside Stadium in 2013, events have taken place at Wembley, Old Trafford cricket ground, The Oval, Villa Park, St James’ Park and Cardiff Castle.
The most recent Teesside event, on the Victorian Street at Preston Park Museum, saw 60 business leaders raise £45,000.
Funds raised elsewhere have helped to fight homelessness and poverty across the country, with 15% of all funds coming back to Teesside.