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Dishing Up French Cuisine and Opportunities

Kathryn HubertSince graduating from the Bryan School in 2012, Kathryn Hubert has dreamed of combining her love of French cuisine and her desire to empower those with special needs.

This month, Hubert’s dream became a reality with the grand opening of her restaurant, Chez Genѐse. Located in the heart of Greensboro, Chez Genѐse features a mouthwatering menu inspired by her time learning to cook in France. What makes the restaurant unique, however, is the many intellectually and developmentally disabled employees who cook and serve the food.

“I’ve always had a heart for the special needs community,” says Hubert. “I grew up with three cousins with autism and used to volunteer with kids on the spectrum as part of an after-school program.” Working with the Autism Society of North Carolina’s Job Placement Program has ensured that those with disabilities make up nearly half her staff.

“The unemployment rate for intellectually and developmentally disabled adults is over 70 percent, and a lot of that is because people don’t give them a chance,” explains Hubert. “We want to remove the stigma and educate the public about people with disabilities. They are capable of a lot. They just need an environment where they’re set up for success.”

That environment has been created by Hubert by building a sensory break area where employees can go to decompress if they feel overwhelmed or stressed. She is also working with the Autism Society and others to ensure employees get the training they need and that the schedule is consistent and enables them to work at a pace they can handle. Ultimately, her goal is to show that people with disabilities can perform at a high level and deliver a fine dining experience that is as good as or better than any other you can get in Greensboro or anywhere else.

From designing the space and adjusting her budget as unexpected expenses came up to sourcing ingredients and spreading the word of her launch, Hubert is utilizing many of the skills she learned while studying hospitality and management at the Bryan School. The biggest challenge, she says, has been staying organized and focusing her time and energy on the areas where it matters most.

“The response from the community has been incredibly positive,” she says. “Most people have a connection to someone who has a disability. The support from my professors at UNCG has been invaluable too. Dr. Byrd and Dr. Canziani have been especially enthusiastic, connecting me with resources both inside and outside the school, and helping me along in any way they can.”