A former prisoner says being appointed assistant manager at a popular Teesside restaurant is “just the start for me”.

Joe Fawcett has worked at Middlesbrough’s Fork in the Road on day release from Kirklevington Grange since January 2017, undertaking several roles including kitchen porter, waiter and supervisor.

He was subsequently promoted to trainee manager late last year.

And following his release from prison last month, he’s now been offered – and accepted – the position of assistant manager.

The Fork in the Road was opened by Middlesbrough -based national charity CEO Sleepout – which is chaired by Teesside businessman and charity leader Andy Preston.

It focuses on giving work and training opportunities to the long-term unemployed, ex-offenders and others who want to make a fresh start in life.

Profits made at the charity restaurant are reinvested in its social mission.

Joe said: “Working at The Fork in the Road has changed my life.

“I have served my sentence and worked my way up to assistant manager and I feel that this is just the start for me. I’ve been given this opportunity and I’m trying my best to prove myself and repay the faith Andy and the charity have put in me.

“I feel I’ve got a real rapport with our customers and feel a sense of pride every day when I hear the wonderful compliments about our food.

“The Fork in the Road is truly amazing in every way.”

Mr Preston said: “When I first saw Joe, I saw a person who was enthusiastic, honest and just desperate for someone to give him a chance.

“In the 18 months I’ve worked with him, I’ve seen someone with great energy, commitment and who really wants to deliver the best customer experience.

“Fork in the Road has been a huge success since it opened almost two years ago, with great reviews and loyal customers but Joe is one of its biggest success stories and I’m very proud of that along with my fellow trustees Nik Tunley and Abu Ali.”

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