To most people blind baking involves pre-cooking pastry to avoid a soggy bottom but for Hampshire baker, Penny Melville-Brown baking blind is a reality.
British Royal Navy Veteran Penny Melville-Brown has been blind since she retired from her role as Lieutenant Commander and has now been recognised with an international award for her work towards claiming a place in the kitchen for blind chefs across the world.
The Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired in San Francisco has named the Fareham resident as one of the first ever winners of the Holman Prize, which funds the ambitions of inspirational blind people globally.
Penny said: ‘I was relieved because I had been waiting for the news to come through and I was delighted.
‘The vital message is that just because you are blind or have any other disability does not stop what you want to do.’
Her YouTube channel called ‘Baking Blind’ and blog includes videos teaching the techniques of baking and posts about her travels in order to change common assumptions about the capabilities of blind chefs.
She added: ‘While food is a mainstay across the media and popular culture, it is almost impossible to find any inclusion of visually impaired people.’
Penny also runs Disability Dynamics, an organisation which focuses on getting disabled people back to work and was awarded an OBE in 2009 for her services to disabled and other disadvantaged people.
Alongside Ahmet Ustunel, a blind kayaker from the USA and Ojok Simon, a blind beekeeper from Uganda, Penny was selected from over 200 applicants from 27 different countries and will each receive $25,000 in funding.
The trio recently appeared in a piece by the Washington Post and Penny said: ‘I thought that it was pretty outstanding to reach such an important international newspaper with just my humble plans was quite overwhelming.’
With the prize money, the former member of the WRNS, will spend a year travelling Malawi, Australia, China, Costa Rica and the United States, meeting chefs and teaching other blind people and community leaders the art of blind baking. She intends to film her travels and update her YouTube channel and blog with her cooking adventures.
The Holman Prize is named after James Holman, a 19th century traveler, was known as the first blind man to circumnavigate the globe.
For more information on Penny’s plans go to bakingblind.com