A Knoxville restaurant hired a worker with intellectual disabilities and found out his abilities make him a great employee.
Adrian Pitts demonstrated the last step in the dish washing process, "Put it in and it starts."
He started working at Northshore Brasserie about two years ago. Co-owner Brian Balest hired him to wash dishes.
"We thought it would be a good fit so we decided to give him a shot here, part of the team here at the Brasserie," he said. "It started out as a part time position about 17 hours a week and that quickly escalated into some more hours and more duties."
Adrian started as a dishwasher then added food prep work.
"We've got to prep the food and cook it of course. You can see that. I do a lot of food prep. I prep and I help them prep," he said.
Balest said Adrian, "peels a lot of potatoes for our homemade french fries. Does a lot of burgers and things. We have homemade burgers."
Adrian explained his daily duties. "I cut stuff, I dice stuff, I do mussels, I do all kinds of stuff. I make homemade hamburgers. I grind it up in a grinder," he said.
Hamburgers are Adrian's specialty.
"Making burgers. I weigh them. They've got to weight 8 ounces. Then when I get done I press them," he demonstrated.
He can pretty much eyeball eight ounces.
As he weighed one ball of ground beef the needle on the scale stopped at exactly eight ounces. "Ha! Told you sometimes I get right on the money," he exclaimed.
It's a paid position for five days a week and a couple of nights.
"Adrian loves to spend money as we all love to spend money," Norm Nelson said.
He is the Supportive Employment Coordinator for Emory Valley Center in Oak Ridge.
Nelson networks with businesses to match clients like Adrian with jobs. He said a job coach accompanies Adrian to work.
"Take Adrian back and forth to work because he doesn't drive so that was a barrier so we are all about removing those barriers," he said.
Adrian described the place that matched him to the job. "Emory Valley is a non-profit organization and they help people with disabilities," he said.
Adrian's abilities make him a good fit for the Northshore Brasserie.
"We have expectations of him and we rely on him just as much as we rely on anyone in the kitchen," Brian Balest said.
Adrian high fived a co-worker in the kitchen and said, "I got the burgers done."
He's tasted the food at the restaurant and it has stretched his palate.
"Can I show you this? This is rabbit. This is rabbit liver and hearts. Rabbit liver and hearts." he said. "Snails, escargot, calamari, mango, that's some real stuff, fish, and duck."
The burger maker has a favorite.
"I'm telling you they've got the best hamburgers in town," he said. "You should come back."
Adrian comes back to work every day with abundant enthusiasm.
"Just brings a great attitude. It rubs off on all the guys back there. It's kind of contagious I think on everyone and just really a great part of our team here," Balest said.
Adrian put it simply. "I tell you what. I've got the best job in the world."
The Emory Valley Center made that match possible.
The organization is raising money to build a new facility in Oak Ridge.
Find out more about the capital campaign here.
From the Emory Valley Center web site:
"We now embark on a major Capital Campaign to replace the building and continue the legacy which began more than 50 years ago. Emory Valley Center has met the needs of the mentally and physically disabled in this community effectively for 56 years. This community was one of the first in the nation to offer training, education, and hope to special needs children that others had ignored.
"We are losing our building and must turn to the community for help so that these services may continue. The Emory Valley Center story is about a community that came together and decided to care for the least fortunate and made sure every child and every adult had a chance at a decent life. That's not a tradition we can bear to see end. It would be a real tragedy to abandon a program that works and has made a real difference.
"We ask you to please consider a tax-deductible gift to our Capital Campaign so that this legacy and Emory Valley Center will continue for many years to come. Please help us help those who cannot help themselves."