Do you love sandwiches? At the Autism Academy, we love them and at a restaurant located in Gilbert, AZ, people are loving them too. The Autism Academy is a school for children with autism and similarly to the Autism Academy, this restaurant encourages people with autism to go above and beyond. Both the Autism Academy and this restaurant, encourage people with autism to strengthen their social skills, learn new skills, and engage in the world around them. If your child has autism, check out this school. If you love food, check out this restaurant.
News is spreading, lines are getting longer daily, and 16 employees at a new Gilbert restaurant are changing the way people see autism.
“Not Your Typical Deli” is operated by 16 employees with autism, and good news is steadily spreading about the cleanliness, professionalism and grommet sandwiches.
Chef W Rieth and his wife, chef Vanessa Luna catered lunches for the Autism Academy prior to taking on this new endeavor. Now, the chef couple has the ingredients to help students with autism transitioning toward independence.
They’ve partnered with Chuck and Pam DePalma as owners of the new deli. The DePalma’s son, Daniel, has autism and is also an employee at the restaurant. The employment opportunity is a 12-week training program equipping people with autism to secure substantial and gainful employment.
“This is a business,” said Chef W. “We give them what they need to succeed, and then we push them.”
Every employee understands their role, responsibilities, and the importance of building great relationships with every customer.
“This is how they will gain their independence,” Chef W said. “And we pay competitive wages.”
The Department of Labor enforces the “commensurate wage rate” that allows employers to pay individuals with disabilities at a rate less than minimum wage. Despite labor allowances, “Not Your Typical Deli” pay workers fair and competitive wages.
The owners created a state-of-the-art gourmet concept that attracts repeat and new customers. The kitchen has an Ecolab industrial dishwasher complete with a wall monitor that provides repetitive digital video training for employees. Fresh meats are imported from Italy, and Capistrano’s Bakery in Phoenix prepares fresh bread and pastries. Upon entering, Sam Irving greets guests with a warm welcome.
“Hi, welcome to Not Your Typical Deli,” he says while smiling and shaking hands with every guest.
“What is your name?”
Irving is 27-years-old, this is his first job, and he is autistic.
Canvass paintings by Irving and Daniel are displayed in the dining area. For many, the cozy restaurant is the new go-to spot for fresh deli sandwiches and a comfortable uplifting environment. It is also a melting pot for families supporting loved ones with autism.
The atmosphere echoes with positive energy, “Oh my gosh, this is like an answer to prayer,” and “Hi Sam, I remember you, I was here last week.”
Cashier Cordell Sherwood, 19, says this is also his first job.
“I have Asperger’s (Syndrome), it’s a high functioning form of autism,” he said. “I used to be a train wreck. I didn’t know how to talk to people, I had serious meltdowns, and I had bad social anxiety.”
These days, Sherwood’s professionalism is what guests remember about him most.
“Transition is scary for everyone,” he said. “Autism or not, change can be scary.”
The chefs are patiently working one-on-one with employees and helping them to conquer the fear of transitioning. “Not Your Typical Deli” is cooking up recipes for success and working to prove that employees are awesome despite autism.
Check Out This Restaurant:
Not Your Typical Delicatessen and Catering
3821 E Baseline Road J-140Gilbert, AZ 85234480-794-1116
Monday – Saturday: 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. Sunday: Closed