special needs in the kitchen

Joined Aug 21, 2009
We have a co-op student with us again this semester and he has special needs.. he is deaf.  He has some residual hearing in one ear but how much he has really isn't known to us so we have been told to treat him as if he is deaf.  And this young man despite his deafness is interested in working in a kitchen and maybe one day attending culinary school and becoming a chef.  He is in high school now and this is his second co-op placement. He did his first one in a grocery store in the fresh to go section where he prepped the meals etc that were for sale that day and according to his EA (educational assistant) he did really well there.  He is a visual learner and if we show him things, he remembers them. 

I'm looking forward to working with this young man.  I think it will be a learning experience for us as well as him.  I have worked with deaf people before so I have experience with sign language, lip readers and gesturing so I can teach the other staff  to communicate w with him.  He does not sign, but does lip read and gesture so I have already told staff to make  sure he is looking at them in the face when they are speaking to him so he doesn't miss anything.  I was watching his EA with him today (this was his second day with us) when I could and she does alot of gestures with him so I'm trying to pick them up so that I can teach them to the other staff.   He does speak but we have to listen very closely to him as English is not his first language and he is also very soft spoken. 

Have any of you worked with someone with special needs?  How did it go?

Besides working in the grouphome ages ago, I have worked with people who have disabilities in the kitchen.  I worked with someone who was mildly developmentally  delayed at one job and she did fine as long as she had a clear set of tasks she needed to complete during her shift.  One of my close friends has CP in her legs and she is also a cook .. and the only accomodation I had to make for her (she worked with  me for a bit at another job) was that she have a stool nearby in the event her legs or hips needed a break from standing and when she was working I served and helped cook and she stayed in the kitchen the whole shift.   I have also worked with someone with hearing loss in the kitchen.  One of the corporate trainers who helped us open last June is deaf in one ear and he told us all this at the beginning so we knew not to talk to him on that side and to touch him when we were passing behind him so he knew we were there.  He worked in hotel kitchens before going corporate and I have to say he was one of my favourite trainers. 
Joined Sep 2, 2009
as I've worked over the year I've had several mentally handicapped dish washer.....absolutly the best dish washer I have ever had....great on prep, loylal, always on time.....one guy was able to move on to pantry and it was an open kitchen in a large high rise in down town and people were amazed how this guyt would just rock the station
Joined Feb 8, 2009
There was a girl in my Sons culinary class that was deaf, she was at the top of the class. I would have hired her in a second, she ran rings around everyone............Chef Bill

kristen zalewski

i do have a learing disabiltiy and i just try my beast   and i dont let people tell me i cant do somthing  what i would like some people to reilize is that i am no diffrent then you are it just mite  take me a while to dosomthng  i have dislexiea and vishion  and i have a hard time spelling  i love cooking thoe it helps me understand math better
Joined Feb 17, 2010
I had a guy work for me for several years, He had a learning disability. Started out as a dish washer,and was always wanting to help with prep. I started to teach him a few simple tasks, which he could duplicate.

The only way he could work was with a list and recipe cards, even with something with as few as 3-4 ingredients, he had to have a card. So every day when he came in to work,  he would say "Boss, can I have my list so I can get busy"

Turned out to be one of the best and most loyal employees I ever had. He followed me around for years, and I always had a job for him, he did not care if it was prep or washing dishes. Always first in and last to go, willing to help where ever and when ever.

Also had a dish washer that had down syndrome. He was a very good worker.
Joined Dec 8, 2010
Marco Pierre White had dyslexia. A lot of learning disabilities don't have much of a negative impact in the kitchen--might be harder to teach someone something, but in my experience, once you find a way to show someone the picture, you don't have problems. Physical disabilities are a different story. Someone with leg/back/hip problems is going to have a rough time working on a busy line. Wheelchairs are obviously out of the question. And everywhere I've worked, being deaf would be hard to accommodate: everything urgently needed is verbally communicated, by which I mean the line cook or chef will yell, "I need pans, chicken breast, demi, &c. NOW." No time to play charades or draw pictures during a rush. But with day-prep, I could see a deaf person working pretty much fine.
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