Still damp from a quick rinse, a batch of brown russet potatoes lay sprawled out on a wooden cutting board. Ready for tomorrow’s menu, they’ve been washed, peeled, and prepped. Nearby, a fry cutter, its aluminum surface reflecting the light from above, sits, eager to be put to use.
Approaching the table, a young man grabs the metal handle of the dicer in one hand and randomly selects a potato with the other, placing the russet onto the sharp blades of the dicer. He forcefully presses down and in a matter of seconds the transformation is complete – what was once a peeled potato is now many thick wedges ready to be blanched and fried for dining patrons.
For Justin, a 28-year-old HIPster working at The Westin, prepping potatoes is just one of his many kitchen responsibilities at The Second Floor Restaurant. Dishwashing, another duty is especially dear to his heart:
“Being a dishwasher guy is a lot of work, but if there’s no clean dishes then there’s no restaurant. Without clean dishes customers don’t get to eat, and if there’s no clean pots and pans then no one can cook. It’s all depending on me – when I do dishes, I’m an expert.” says Justin.
While he may be an expert now, Justin’s journey to working at the Westin began several years ago when his Brother and Uncle enrolled him at My Possibilities. Having forgone a traditional education, Justin knew only a few people and had a select set of skills. Over the course of the next two years, he would make many friends and learn things like cooking, taking out the trash, and (most importantly) doing the dishes.
“If it wasn’t for My Possibilities, I wouldn’t be here at The Westin today. I got to go out into the real world and do things like catering. They helped me to believe in myself and realize that I can do something like this.”
For Justin, working in the kitchen is more than just a paycheck – it’s a career path to his dream job.
“I’ve always wanted to be a chef – it’s my passion. I love food. I would honestly say my favorite type of cooking is baking.”
With support from My Possibilities and the Westin Team, Justin is well on his way to realizing that dream. At only a year in, he’s gone from being a dishwasher to helping prep – doing things like blanching potatoes and helping to bake. For Justin and those who know him, it’s proof of how much adults with special needs are truly capable of.
“Everybody is born different in this world. It’s not about age or what you look like – it’s about you, your personality, skill, and talent. When you’re born, you don’t get to decide about what you come like. We’re all HIPsters.”