GUSTO-WORK is a research project that aims to use an intensive cooking intervention in a small group setting to develop abilities and skills that can be transferable to a successful return to work. The project is led by Frederique Poncet, institutional researcher at the Lethbridge-Layton-Mackay Rehabilitation Center. 

This project is addressed to people who have an acquired brain injury (for example a traumatic brain injury or a stroke). Of the 13 000 people who sustain a traumatic brain injury in Quebec each year, only 35% return to work. It is thus essential to help them develop and strengthen their abilities to maintain employment 

A cooking intervention to develop and strengthen abilities to return to work 

Cooking requires multiple functions and capacities : sensory (smelling, tasting), motor (reaching your arms in different directions to grab utensils, walking to buy groceries), cognitive (plan a meal, conduct a series of tasks simultaneously) or to communicate (read and understand instructions, collaborate with other participants).  

In previous studies, F. Poncet and her team demonstrated the efficacy of GUSTO 1.0 (1 session per week for 7 weeks, for a total of 28 hours) on the ability to prepare a meal for participants with an acquired brain injury 1 and healthy older adults who didn’t know how to cook.2  

The objective of this project is to develop a version of GUSTO that focuses on the abilities required to return to work 

What is GUSTO-WORK? 

GUSTO-WORK was co-developed with the Constance-Lethbridge Work Evaluation and Orientation Program, managers and cook of Resto-Plateau (a Montreal Center for socio-professional insertion in the restaurant industry) and the research team 


GUSTO-WORK is offered to clients in the Work Evaluation and Orientation program. Over a period of 8 weeks, the intervention time increases from 4 to 7 hours per day (twice a week). In total, 104 hours of intervention are offered to participants.  

The group of 4 to 5 participants is supported by an occupational therapist, Vanessa Patrice, and a Chef from Resto-Plateau, to learn, develop and reinforce their abilities that will be useful to return to work. During GUSTO-WORK, participants accomplish activities such as planning healthy menus, buying groceries, preparing and sharing meals, and cleaning. The interventions are conducted in a professional kitchen of the Resto-Plateau Center. Working in a small group allows participants to develop teamwork, to encourage each other and to share successful strategies.  

A first group of participants took part in the project in the Fall 2021. A second group will be recruited for Spring 2022. Research data is collected to demonstrate the efficacy and outcomes of the program for rehabilitation clients. Participants will be contacted six months after the intervention for a follow-up by the research team and the organization SPHERE (Support for People with a Handicap Exploring the Road to Employment). 

A project based on partnerships and collaboration  

The GUSTO-WORK project was put in place through a partnership and active collaboration between the CIUSSS Montreal West-Central, Resto-Plateau, and SPHERE. Three Constance-Lethbridge occupational therapists also received training.  

If results from this project are conclusive, GUSTO-WORK could be included in the regular service offer of the Work Evaluation and Orientation Program. This would allow us to reach out to a larger number of clients who wish to reinforce their abilities and skill for a successful return to work.  

 Researchers: Frédérique Poncet (Occupational therapist, Lethbridge-Layton-Mackay Rehabilitation Center) et Marie Laberge (Occupational therapist, Université de Montréal).
Partners at the Lethbridge-Layton-Mackay : Marie-Claude Saindon, June Litowski and Dana Benoit (Program managers), Lyne Boissonneault (Dietitian), Vanessa Patrice, Nathalie Touchette and Carole Leblanc  (occupational therapist), Amélie Labelle (clinical coordinator) 

Other partners : Resto-Plateau, SPHERE, REPAR, CRIR, McGill University, Université de Montréal 

Financial support: This project is funded by the Provincial network for research in adaptation and rehabilitation (REPAR) et SPHERE. The salary of our institutional research is funded by the Habilitas Foundation.  


1) F. Poncet, B. Swaine, H. Migeot, J. Lamoureux, C. Picq, P. Pradat-Diehl. (2018). Effectiveness of a multidisciplinary rehabilitation program for persons with acquired brain injury and executive dysfunction. Disability & Rehabilitation, 40(13), 1569-1583. doi: 10.1080/09638288.2017.1300945 

2) Poncet, F., Downey, R., Mckinley, P., & Li, K. (2021). GUSTO: une intervention culinaire proposée en milieu communautaire pour améliorer la capacité à cuisiner et les fonctions cognitivo-motrices et exécutives chez les aînés en bonne santé. La recherche et l’ergothérapie: comprendre et améliorer les pratiques, 243-261.