Calling cooks and chefs around the world: your help please.

I have this wonderful opportunity: to cook around the world and show that just being blind doesn’t hold me (or others) back.Penny chopping while filming for

As one of the 50 worldwide blind semi-finalists for the Holman prize, I now have about four weeks to flesh out my original pitch with a detailed plan and budget if I’m to reach the Final.   The prize commemorates James Holman who, like me, was blinded when serving in the Royal Navy.

probationery third officer melville brown WRNSI’m looking for people in different countries (whether chef or home-cook, sighted or not) willing to spend about half a day cooking with me – in cafes, restaurants, homes or anywhere else within reason!   These are the people who will make this whole adventure come alive: helping me bust myths about what blind people can do.    Together, we can capture some favourite and local recipes and share them across the globe through the Baking Blind YouTube channel, podcast, blogs and social media: there’s an example of me cooking with John and our sillier Comic relief fundraising episode.

My only concern is that the budget will probably be too tight for much travel away from main airports.  But I’m already trying to raise more funds and help-in-kind so that I can go further, meet more cooks and reach more people.

If you or someone you know could help, take part or would like to know more, just drop me an e-mail to

Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

You Tube

Comic Relief bake-off by three blind mice.

three blind mice ready to bake!


Watch me make them on You Tube

Download the recipes from

Highlight of the month was taxi driver John putting on Comic Relief red glasses and nose to cook alongside me for a special Baking Blind fundraising episode.

He went above and beyond the call of duty: using mostly obscured glasses to get a better idea of cooking blind like me.  Brave to try in the first place, braver still to do it on camera with a silly nose too– what a star! Superstar John

We raised over £150 with our American-themed bakes: chewy chocolate cookies, wicked pecan pie, sesame bagels plus more English trays of flapjacks.   Heaven only knows how many calories went in to it all!

These are all straightforward bakes although measuring syrup and handling a pastry case full of sugary mix are both hazardously sticky if you’re blind.  I should have weighed out the balls of cookie dough in to more consistent sizes – but they still tasted good.

The finished bagelsBagels need poaching or steaming before baking: try fishing soft floppy bread out of boiling water or lifting them off a steaming tray with your eyes shut – pretty tricky.  The answer is a set of silicone moulds designed for the job:  just slide the dough balls down the oiled rubber cones and dunk them in the hot water.  Worked a treat even though we ignored the rest of the recipe and instructions.Penny and John

Roping in John to cook with me isn’t as random as you might think.  I’ve been using the same local taxi firm for over 20 years: we swap news and gossip, and the drivers know when I need a helping hand – just part of the pleasure of not driving myself.   A great bunch who have sorted out emergencies, rescued me from station platforms, collected prescriptions and been a real life-line when needed.  They supported my Holman prize bid so it isn’t surprising that John and I were swapping recipes on a journey and I dared him to cook with me.  Having worked as a professional chef in local pubs and naval shore establishments, we have the Navy in common too.  It’s been a real privilege to learn from all his knowledge and experience.

John arrived for my first lesson with a rustling bag of the ingredients to make a glorious pork dish, complete with all the sauce and trimmings.  I’d forgotten that it’s possible to whizz in to a supermarket, dash through the aisles and pick up whatever you want, whenever you need. He is used to having every burner going full blast alongside all the hustle and bustle of chopping and stirring – not so easy when cooking depends on listening.  And professionals really do use all that salt!

Using the SpecSavers Comic relief glasses helped John understand why I seem so slow in the kitchen. But I don’t think that either of us had fully realised how much we depend on our sense of smell: those red noses from Sainsbury’s made it impossible (and got in the way of tasting too).

The recipes are at and you can download accessible Word versions. A feast for our comic relief bake sale

And, if you are still wondering where the third blind mouse was, Toby was behind the camera – nose on but glasses off!


Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

You Tube

Can’t see but can cook and dream!

I’m Penny Melville-Brown and have been trying to push the disability boulder up the mountain of public attitudes for years.  So I’m delighted that Disability Talk has invited me to provide this guest blog.

Penny chopping while filming for bakingblind.comIt all started over 20 years ago when I was still serving in the Royal Navy and my eye sight started to go.  They were very good: after being off-sick for a year and with just sight in one eye, I went back to work, got a promotion and carried on even while the other eye was failing. The Navy helped me with flexible hours, getting to work and magnification on my computer even though, like other parts of the military, they weren’t covered by the equality legislation.    When I was finally medically discharged, those years with all sorts of health difficulties gave me the confidence that being blind didn’t stop me working.

But trying to persuade future employers seemed a slim chance until I was lucky enough to link up with others equally passionate about making work a real prospect for disabled people.  So I launched Disability Dynamics: working on employment programmes, equality schemes and trying to change some of our public services.  Over the last few years, I’ve been heavily involved in self-employment as it can be ideal when employers are still reluctant and we may need to keep control of where, when and how we work.  There are some wonderful stories of how people have changed their lives – feeling better and happier.  We were just on the brink of more inclusive support for business start-ups when the recession hit and the Government changed.

Over the years, I’ve heard from lots of people who are hugely frustrated, depressed and isolated because their efforts to get a job just result in repeated rejections.  I’m convinced that there are millions of disabled people who would work if they could but haven’t had the help they need or the opportunities they deserve.  Just pushing them through programmes designed for other long-term unemployed people can seem more about a target-driven process than getting the best from this national resource.  There are still lots of questions  as to whether the forthcoming Work and Health programme will deliver the radically different approach we need – and demolish the ultimate barrier: employers’ attitudes.

With lots of help from those with specialist knowledge about disability and employment, we put together our Steps to Success and Sustainable work models that show that just one organisation will rarely have all the skills and capacity to provide every variation of support.    Our Help to Work partnership showed that multiple organisations embedded in the local community working together can succeed where parachuted national providers may not.

Along the way, there have been many more topics to debate from the disability perspective:

You can see my blogs with lots of images of my flower arrangements and some recipes.  The last gives a clue to my latest venture: Baking Blind.  The cooking videos and recipes are just another way of trying to show that having a disability isn’t the end of the world and that blindness or any other impairment doesn’t stop us doing most things.  I’ve rather optimistically entered an international competition to take the idea around the world.  And I’ll be blogging more recipes over coming months – and about how I’m bashing bowls out of pewter!  One of my taxi drivers has been teaching me some of his dishes and we have a whole range of great bakes for Comic Relief coming next.


Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

You Tube

Guest chef, John, helps cook outstanding French dishes.

On Baking Blind, I’m always keen to learn from anyone who loves cooking and has some fabulous food ideas to share.  This week, taxi driver John stepped back in to the kitchen to show me outstanding Pork Dijonnaise.  It’s not difficult and doesn’t use exotic ingredients so perfect for a meal to impress!

Sauteed potatoes, pork dijonnaise and french beans

The finished article.

With garlic sautéed potatoes and French beans, it served four very generously for under £10 and could be just perfect for a special lunch or dinner for Mothers’ Day next weekend.  Even I could manage the cooking!

Watch me cook with John on You Tube or download the recipe at

Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd

Helping disabled people to work since 2000




Can I beat you at the Saturday Kitchen omelette challenge with my eyes shut!

Although being blind I have the advantage

I’m Penny from Baking Blind.

Vlogs, recipes and my story are all at in my garden

I’m an entrant in the San Francisco Lighthouse organisation’s Holman Prize – there’s 90 seconds about my dream of cooking around the world at YouTube

There are nearly 200 other blind entrants from all around the world wanting to fulfil their different ambitions.

The support of you and your listeners would make an amazing difference for all of us.


Can’t see but can cook and dream…

I am competing alongside around 100 other international blind people for the inaugural Holman prize being awarded by the San Francisco ‘Lighthouse’ organisation to allow the winner to fulfill their dream.
Each of us has created a short video clip – there are many excellent ideas from amazing people. My own goal is to take the ‘Baking Blind” channel and website around the world: cooking with other people and showing that life with a disability can still be fun, fabulous and fulfilling. I’ve spent nearly 20 years helping other people with health conditions and impairments to get back to work so I know there’s lots of talent out there if others can look beyond our disabilities and see the people we are.
The prize commemorates James Holman who became blind while serving in the Royal Navy in the early 19th century –his adventures travelling solo around the world are celebrated in his biography “A Sense of the World”. Coincidentally, I am also a blind veteran having left the Royal Navy as a Commander in 1999.
You can support me with a ‘Thumbs Up’ for my YouTube clip at:
And see other dreams for the Holman prize at . First round ‘voting’ closes on 7 March 2017.

Penny sitting in the garden