North East entrepreneur invests in local talent to drive growth of popular eatery

A budding bistro owner is reaping the benefits of investing in young, local talent as her Newcastle-based cafes go from strength to strength.

Mandeep Walia, who owns and manages Café 1901 in Jesmond, Gosforth and Manors in Newcastle has focused on each café becoming an integral part of their local community, offering a place for people young and old to come together and catch up over locally sourced, homemade food and beverages.

As well as ensuring her supply chain remains local, Walia has also prioritised the employment of young, local team members too.

A former Gateshead College catering student herself, Walia has hired several current staff members from the same college course she completed, including 24-year-old Josh Gray and most recently 19-year-old Harry Douglas. Following work placements at Café 1901 and the Marriot Gosforth and 21 Hospitality Group, Harry is now a chef working in the kitchen of the Jesmond café.

Mandeep Walia said: “Café 1901 sits at the heart of the local communities it serves and it’s important that we offer opportunities to local people too.

“The course I did at Gateshead College equipped me with the work ready skills I needed to dive straight into the food business sector. I know personally how great the quality of teaching and work experience is so hiring graduates from the same course makes complete business sense.

“I also believe everyone deserves a chance at real life work experience, especially those who dedicate time, money and energy into pursuing a career just like Harry and other employees have. We enjoy nurturing and providing opportunities for people, especially if they’ve specifically trained for their role. Everyone needs to start somewhere.”

Despite being in the midst of a pandemic, Café 1901 has managed to remain open throughout the last six months, including spring’s national lockdown, where it provided essential groceries to its local communities at a time when many day-to-day items were scarce. Navigating through such tough times has enabled Walia to not just sustain the business but also focus on its future growth – something she firmly believes is down to having the right people who hold the same shared values and work ethic.

Harry Douglas, who has recently graduated from a Level 3 catering and hospitality course at Gateshead College, said: “The course provided a great learning experience. It was so hands-on and I managed to secure some excellent work placements which really helped me to understand what being a chef involved and, in turn, gave me the confidence to secure a job once I had qualified.

“My course tutor Alistair had a huge influence on my development and the combination of classroom learning and practical experience I gained has definitely equipped me with the work ready skills I need to handle the busy, high stress environment that chefs often work within. I’m already feeling part of the Café 1901 team.”

Alistair Gilchrist, curriculum leader for catering at Gateshead College, said: “It’s great to see the success Mandeep has achieved in starting her own business and then growing it with the support of talented Gateshead College alumni.

“Our focus is to prepare our students for work by equipping them with the experience, skills and attitude that make them sought-after employees. It’s great that Mandeep has turned to her former college to recruit her latest employee. Harry was an excellent student, just like his new boss and colleague Josh, and I am confident he will continue to thrive at Café 1901.”

For more information about Gateshead College catering and hospitality courses visit: