The Melting Munch (with added crunch)

The Melting Munch is a very special cafe based at the Church of the Nazarene in Ashton on Saturdays and in the school holidays Monday to Wednesday. It is just like any other cafe in a way, except you might be delighted by the reasonable prices and may suddenly feel a little bit older when you meet the waiting staff. Unlike the Coffee Lounge which is based at the church Thursday to Friday which is run by adults, this cafe is run by young people. They are involved in the shopping, menu planning, cooking and waiting tables which earns them credits which in turn can go towards trips with the youth club, help with their education, or even in one insistence provide the tools needed for a career in hairdressing. The cafe began because one entrepreneurial young person won a competition called “The Stake” run by Barclays and Channel 4 in 2011. With that injection of start up cash the cafe opened in 2012 and continues to this day. It was a lovely Spring Saturday when I arrived to volunteering at the Melting Munch. Rachel was in charge of the shift. There is a DBS checked adult in charge to support the young people but other than that it is over to them. I started by chopping vegetables and getting training on the coffee machine from a young person probably a third of my age. There was a lovely atmosphere in the kitchen and it felt as if the girls (it was mainly a female shift) had a good relationship and had fun working together. Some had started when the cafe began a few years ago, others were new this year but they were helping each other to set up the cafe and prepare the kitchen. There were toasties, platters and cake on the menu. A slight problem with a lack of lemons for the water station needed innovative thinking and resulted in the invention of strawberry water. I added my own creative input by creating a name for the tuna baguette with peppers and onions in it – “The tuna crunch baguette”, although I think it ended up the tuna baguette crunch which is probably just as good as it had the same words.

Once the menu had been written out and the items priced we were ready to open. I helped Rachel and Paige in the kitchen with the cooking and washing up while some of the others were serving customers. There was a group playing complicated board games in the back room who wanted coffees and food. I got to make my tuna baguette with added crunch and they seemed to like it. The shift wasn’t very busy so a couple of the girls decided to show their entrepreneurial spirit and take to the streets of Ashton with some of the coffee to offer as samples. This left me and Paige to serve and cook. Luckily it was mostly coffees and cake and it gave us chance to chat to the customers. I later met Jack who helps with the cafe and he explained the credit system. Each young person gets a credit per shift which varies in value depending on the profit in one quarter. This could be £10 or even £50 per credit to go towards something educational or to allow them to go on trips with the youth club. Jack explained other great things for the future for young people at the church including a £30,000 grant from Tameside Youth Services. This means a soft play area for the younger children, sports equipment, a sensory room, games consoles, a recording studio and green screen for video work.

I thought the cafe was a brilliant idea, giving young people work skills and something to work towards. Some of the previous volunteers have gone on to get work based on their experience but even if you didn’t want a job in a cafe or coffee shop you would still gain lots of skills in customer service and running a business. What was very evident was a sense of teamwork and friendship. The only thing I struggled with was picking my favourite “One Direction” member in the break although that was offset by the gorgeous tuna toastie crunch I invented for my lunch. I would recommend a trip to the cafe 11am-4pm on Saturdays or when they are open in the holidays for snacks, coffee, cake and chat in this brilliant enterprise. There are still opportunities for young people aged between 11 to 18 years old to join the team.