An important jewel in Dallas’ growing reputation among foodie circles is Sandwich Hag, led by Chef Reyna (Reye) Duong and her remarkable staff, which includes customer favorite, Sang, Chef Reye’s brother. Sang, who was born with Down Syndrome, has a positive, energetic personality that has become as much of a fixture at Sandwich Hag as the crowd pleasing, delicious banh-mi Vietnamese sandwiches that have earned the restaurant a remarkable amount of positive local and national exposure – including a feature in Bon Appetit magazine.
With a respect for traditional Vietnamese cuisine and fresh, ‘from scratch’ ingredients learned from her mother, Reye applies her own flavors and techniques to make the sandwiches that have built a large cult following for the restaurant. Yet as important as the delicious sandwiches are to the restaurant’s growing reputation, that is where Chef Reye’s unique contributions to the restaurant – and community – only begin. In fact, Sandwich Hag is not only widely recognized for the food, but for Chef Reye’s commitment to diversity hiring, which starts with her brother Sang.
Sang is as much of an integral part of the Sandwich Hag operation as any other staff member. Chef Reye applies innovative approaches (such as simplifying kitchen terminology and color-coding orders) to restaurant operations to accommodate Sang, who is held as equally accountable as any of his kitchen co-workers. It is part of Chef Reye’s effort to not only promote diversity hiring, but to more fully integrate individuals with disabilities into the mainstream workforce. This allows both employees and customers an opportunity to learn new ways to communicate and interact with individuals with disabilities. The restaurant industry is in a unique position to be a leader in that effort, she says, where there is a constant labor shortage, and opportunities for customer interaction are high. As quoted in the Bon Appetit profile, Chef Reye states, “Seeing how able and smart and intuitive and passionate Sang is, I feel that it is an oversight for companies not to recognize that. I am hoping to break the barrier of discomfort.”
When not hard at work at the restaurant, Sang can often be seen at My Possibilities attending various classes and participating in the HIPster choir. “Sang comes to rehearsals full of energy and enthusiasm, and always eager to help his peers,” said Adam Tarver, HIPster choir instructor. “He is always ready with lyrics and practices outside of rehearsal times. Sang is a natural in front of an audience and sings loud for all to hear.”
Sandwich Hag is a valued supporter of My Possibilities and has recently hired a student from The Notre Dame School in Dallas. Chef Reye is working with the LaunchAbility Career Services team at My Possibilities to seek out future employees. To enjoy a sandwich at the award-winning restaurant while supporting Sang and Chef Reye’s vision, visit Sandwich Hag at 1902 S Lamar Street in Dallas, open every day except Monday.