Nicky concentrates on the task at hand, examining each bell pepper carefully before placing it on the cutting board. It’s passed her rigorous inspection and will be included in the vegetables prepped for today.
“She’s very meticulous,” says Culinary Coordinator, Diana, “the amount of pride and detail that goes into it- she will actually tell you if she doesn’t want you to serve something.”
Quiet (and ostensibly shy), newcomers might never guess that Nicky’ victory comes in the form of being a kitchen dynamo. As one of the original 12 HIPsters to gain their Food Handler’s License, she’s always been drawn to the kitchen and culinary arts. When she first began attending My Possibilities, she participated in cooking class after cooking class- showcasing a growing skill and aptitude for not only cooking, but creating as well.
“There’s a reason the salad on the Standard Menu is named after her,” says Diana “she created it from start to finish- the dressing, what went in it. When people order her salad or she sees it on the menu, she lights up.”
But for Nicky, food is more than just a source of pride. Although Nicky communicates primarily through gestures and sign language, when she cooks, another language comes to life.
“She’s taken her love of culinary, and turned it into a way to communicate what she can’t verbally say. She knows what she wants to say, and she expresses it with food.” Diana says.
In addition to being a tool for communicating with other HIPsters and Staff, food has become a way for her to showcase her newfound independence.
“She led [a] class in making tamales- when she couldn’t say ‘Step one, step two, step three…’ she sat there and showed all of us how to do it. If I was going too fast, she would [sign to] me ‘pay attention’. She would do the sign for pay attention and then she would just kind of get into her zone.” says Diana.
For many, cooking may seem like one more chore, but for Nicky it’s an outlet for creative expression and communication. Each time she creates a new recipe or preps a meal is a #biglittlevictory that reimagines what’s possible for others like her.