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Inside Artos, the Brussels bakery helping young adults with disabilities

13:31 07/07/2020

Artos, in Woluwe-Saint-Pierre, is an extraordinary combination of popular neighbourhood bakery and day centre for 25 young adults with intellectual and physical disabilities.

Greeting us at the sales counter is Augustine, a charming young man who speaks French, English and a bit of Chinese he learned living with his family in China for five years.

“My favourite bread is the one with seeds,” he says. Of all the jobs at the bakery, 23-year-old Augustine most enjoys working behind the counter and meeting customers.

Next to the sales counter is the large, woodburning oven, the heart of the bakery. Loaves are being taken from the oven by a young man in a wheelchair, armed with a long-handled, wooden implement called a peel.

In the prep room behind the oven, apprentice bakers, under the watchful eye of 33-year-old head baker Sylvain are making a log out of molasses-coloured, apricot and walnut cookie dough, ready to be cut into pieces and baked.

“You have to have a lot of patience to be an educator,” says Sylvain. “I love it.”

Artos opened to the public in September 2018 in a beautifully renovated former chapel leased from les Fraternités du Bon Pasteur, the former 19th-century Manoir d’Anjou with a fascinating history, tucked away behind the Rue au Bois, near Stockel.

“The goal is to welcome these young adults into a safe and caring space, with maximum autonomy through a variety of activities, such as work in the bakery, sports, cooking, artistic and creative activities, wellness and meetings with other, similar centres,” says Artos’s director, Hélène d’Huart.

Artos in Ancient Greek meant cake or loaf of wheat-bread, but in Modern Greek it more commonly means communion bread.

The former chapel is an enormous, sunlit building that houses not only the bakery, but offices for staff and a visiting doctor, a laundry room, disabled toilets, showers, a kitchen/dining area and a common room for the young adults to play board games and relax.

Upstairs in the large, airy dining room, the sous-chefs were cutting carrots and peeling potatoes for the Artos “family” lunch that day. Brightly coloured paintings made by the young adults to celebrate the bakery’s inauguration hung on the back wall. Augustine had painted a baguette, suspended in space against a vivid, orange background.

Artos is a hub of creativity, opportunity and community. Firewood for the baking oven is supplied by nearby Timber ASBL. “Timber is our big brother,” says d’Huart.

The idea for Artos came from Pierre Fourneau, former director of Timber, a day centre for disabled young adults who work at every stage of firewood production: from cutting logs in the Sonian, to delivering wood to homes and organisations such as Artos.

The young adults at Artos, in turn, deliver bread to Timber, on foot. The bread is eaten by the Timber “lumberjacks” as part of their forest picnics.

The Artos bakery shop will eventually sell handmade, colourful bread bags, as well as baguette bags sewn from the sleeves of recycled men’s shirts, just one of many future projects planned for the young adults.

Loaves sell quickly, and customers often comment on how good the bakery products are, says d’Huart. But it’s more than that, it’s about human relations, she adds. “We are a meeting place, we create contacts and discussions.”

You can even watch, and smell, the popular waffles being made right in the shop. From waffles, to bread, to eclairs and cookies - everything baked in the wood-burning oven is made with love and tastes like home.

  • Artos, Val des Epinettes 1A, Woluwe Saint Pierre. Open Monday-Friday, 8.30-16.00
  • Timber, Avenue Edmond Parmentier 19, Woluwe Saint Pierre
Written by Diane Fresquez

Comments

donhinrichs

What a nice article. We have a grand daughter working at the bakery. This Bakery has been the best thing for our grand daugthers development. She is calm and has a purpose to make sure that she goes to work everyday. It has given her a goal in her life. Thanks for your article and many thanks for the school.

Jul 30, 2020 10:37