As a pan sizzles, grins and laughter fill the room. Young chefs chop carrots and thinly slice onions. Besides a meal, the students in this cooking class are preparing for job potential.
The teacher, Kris Mill, owner of Wok This Way, operates Phoenix food trucks for a cause. Besides running a vegetarian and environmentally friendly business, she organizes a cooking class for people with Down syndrome. She wants to teach them to be independent, whether that is serving homemade meals or cooking their way into a restaurant job.
“Everybody has strengths and we just have to look at each other’s strengths and put them to use,” she said.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 18 percent of people with disabilities were employed in 2017 compared with 65 percent of the abled population.
Mill said there are misconceptions that people with disabilities can only do limited work.
She said business owners might believe those with Down syndrome or another disability “work in limited facets and in small capacities. But they don’t understand what they can do, they just look at what they can’t.”
Her classes, she said, help people with Down syndrome learn to become restaurant or food-truck cooks.
At a recent cooking class, Mill brought in 10 students with Down syndrome to help give them a kick start to a career.
“I want to come here to learn how to make dinner and stuff,” Frank Joseph said.
Mill calls her work empowerment through employment and urges other business owners to follow her example. It’s worth the time investment.
“Everyone with special needs can learn,” she said.
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