Meet Elyse Bezuidenhout.
How a chef uses her phone’s built-in magnification feature to pursue her culinary ambitions.
4 Minute read
It’s 6 PM, and the pub in Gloucestershire, England where Elyse Bezuidenhout works as a chef is bustling with diners.
Elyse flips a piece of cod in the fryer, turns down the heat on a pot of buttery mashed potatoes, and checks the steak and ale pies, the juice from the brisket, carrot, and celery filling beginning to bubble at the corners of the crust. Elyse has low vision, but she navigates the kitchen effortlessly, leaning on her sense of smell, touch, and sound to prep and plate every meal.
She has another trick as well: As ticket orders arrive in the restaurant’s kitchen, Elyse takes out her Android phone and snaps a photo of each one. She triple taps the screen, activating Magnification—a feature built into her Android phone that can enlarge anything on screen—so that she can read what’s been printed. And then she grabs her knife and gets to work.
Elyse’s culinary career began in her grandmothers’ kitchens. She grew up cooking beside them, standing on a step stool to watch chocolate cake rise in the oven, peach and guava syrup simmering on the stove. Elyse landed her first job in the culinary industry straight out of high school, working under Michelin star chef Dean Timpson at The Compleat Angler. After graduating to a position at the posh, 5-star hotel Stoke Park, she had the opportunity to prepare a meal for James Bond himself, Daniel Craig. But while her career took off, Elyse’s vision worsened. At 3 years old, she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, and as she grew older, it caused her vision to decline. When she was 24, Elyse lost total vision in her right eye and 70 percent of vision in her left. For a few years, she set her culinary ambitions aside.
While Elyse has long had an Android phone, she didn’t learn about its accessibility features until a friend saw her struggling to read her screen. “She explained that if I turned on my phone’s built-in Magnification feature under its accessibility settings, I could then simply triple tap the screen and Magnification would enlarge anything I wanted to look at. If I wanted to make a photo, or a message, or website bigger on my phone, all I had to do was bang, bang, bang, triple tap with my index finger.”
“Magnification opens you up to a whole new world. I’m no longer stuck in my own little bubble.”
After learning about Magnification, Elyse began using it for everything: to read and reply to emails and text messages, to enlarge the Gloucestershire bus timetables, and to access social media for the first time ever. “Magnification opens you up to a whole new world,” says Elyse. “I’m no longer stuck in my own little bubble.”
With her newfound sense of empowerment, Elyse was inspired to try and get back in the culinary industry. In 2016, she used her phone to look up job openings at restaurants, enlarging the text with Magnification so that she could read the application requirements. Elyse sent her resume to over 100 positions in three months. Every one of them turned her down, Elyse suspects, due to a box she was required to check indicating her disability. But Elyse refused to give up—and finally, while at her local pub one day, the owner mentioned they were looking for a chef. Elyse shared her previous experience, and the owner decided to bring her in for a trial shift.
“I was nervous because I hadn’t cooked in a few years. But I was surprised by how much muscle memory I had and how quickly the motions and techniques came back to me. I felt on top of the world.”
“It was extremely nerve wracking,” Elsye says. “I was panicking because I hadn’t cooked in a few years. But I was surprised by how much muscle memory I had and how quickly the motions and techniques came back to me. I felt on top of the world.”
Elyse has been a full-time chef at the pub for the past four years and moves through the kitchen with confidence. “Without my vision, my other senses have become stronger, and I lean on those while I’m cooking,” Elyse says. “I can hear when a chef is walking beside me; I can smell a spice to determine if it’s the one I should be using, and I can touch a piece of meat and know if it’s cooked through.”
Plus, she knows she can rely on her secret weapon: “My phone is always in my pocket or on the bench next to me,” Elyse says. “I have it handy in case I need to check the expiration date of something, or, if a customer has an allergy, to check the ingredients on the back of the package. I take a photo of the packaging and then triple tap the screen to enlarge it so I can read the words on screen.”
Elyse has big plans for her future: “My dream is to travel and cook in restaurants around the world,” she says. For now, however, she’ll be continuing to sharpen her culinary skills with Magnification on her Android phone by her side.
How Elyse does it.
When ticket orders come in at the pub, Elyse uses her phone to take a photo of the ticket. She uses Magnification, triple tapping on her screen to enlarge the image, so she can read the order and make sure she gets each dish right.
When a new recipe is added to the menu and sent around to employees, Elyse triple taps the screen to make the text bigger, so she can read and memorize the recipe. If a recipe needs to be revised due to a customer’s allergy, Elyse will photograph a package’s ingredient label, and then triple tap her phone screen to read the text and ensure the allergenic ingredient is not in the item.
Elyse uses Magnification to read and reply to emails and texts from colleagues and friends, to access social media, and to enlarge the Gloucestershire bus timetables so she can navigate the city independently.
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