From grill to salad to jams and beyond, Brandy says she likes having her hand in everything.
“I like the salad station because it’s so fast paced and I really enjoy being able to tackle several things at once,” she said.
This wasn’t a newfound interest for Brandy, who has a background in art education. She taught art to students all the way from kindergarten to 12th grade and even took a 14 day teaching trip to Cuba. Since she was a little girl, she said she’s always known she wanted to help teach people about her passion: art.
Much like back in the kitchen, Brandy enjoys using lots of different art mediums although she says her favorites are painting and ceramics. Originally from Western Kentucky, Brandy settled in Bowling Green where she taught and started her own art business until she decided she needed to focus on her recovery and staying sober. After a long, hard battle that left her homeless up and down the west coast, she eventually found her way back here to Kentucky.
Since being at DV8, she has overcome major obstacles and heartbreaking loss, but nevertheless she perseveres.
“To get back on my feet and work again like this has been so good because we deal with a lot of things that regular employees don’t deal with and I think a lot of times if we’re put in the regular work force we have a tendency, or at least I do, to work, work, work, work, work, and then we think we’re ready to go back into our career and when we get there and it’s too overwhelming and we relapse,” she shared. “I love that everybody here is accountable and checks up on each other. If I’m overdoing it, they’re going to tell me [and vice versa].”
For this reason, Brandy says she would like to see a second-chance business in “every major hub in every state.”
While Brandy relies a lot on the “extended family” she’s found in DV8, she also relies a lot on her two kids. Ages nine and twelve, they live with her family but often check up on her. For them, it’s relieving to know that their mom is at DV8 and working on her sobriety, Brandy says.
Eventually, Brandy hopes to reunite with them and begin teaching art again. Right now, she sells her art through her business Soul Shine Art.
Brandy’s heart goes out to people who know someone struggling with recovery or are trying to stay sober themselves. Her advice? “Don’t give up and don’t listen to the shame and the guilt.”
“We’re not bad people, we’re sick people,” she says. “I know a lot of times people feel trapped like there’s no way out, but there’s always a way out. You find that in recovery, you find that in your treatment centers, you find that with people that have the same disease you have. There’s always a way out, you just have to ask for help. So just don’t quit five minutes before the miracle happens.”
Conner came to DV8 after hearing about it from his peer support mentee, Jake, who had just gotten a job here! Friends at residential living facility the Hope Center, Jake convinced Conner to look into applying in January 2020.
“I got to where I was just kind of looking for what was next and it worked out perfectly,” Conner remembers.
Now in the “alumni phase” of the Hope Center, Conner works in DV8’s kitchen, also known as the “back of the house.”
According to Conner, a lot of what he does involves prepping food. On a normal day, he can be seen making chicken salad, breading chicken, or building sandwiches, which he says is his favorite.
“I like having control, so build was this perfect position for me because I get to feel like I’m kind of setting the pace in the kitchen,” Conner says. “I’m the last person to touch the food before it leaves the kitchen so I put the burgers together and make sure everything is the same quality every time we send it out of the kitchen.”
Before coming here, Conner had experience making salads from a job at a Danville café. While the job fell right within his comfort zone, Conner said he felt “stuck in that position” until Jake brought something to his attention: there was more in the kitchen that he was capable of doing.
When Conner realized this, he started to train everywhere in DV8’s kitchen where he said he “found [his] voice.”
Soon enough, Conner said much to his surprise he realized he liked working in a fast-paced environment. Along with the near-constant hustle and bustle that comes with working in the kitchen, Conner has found he really enjoys spending time with his co-workers during workshops, staff kayaking trips, and after-work dinners.
“That means a lot to me. I love it working here and being a part of something, which I think I was missing out on for a long time and using drugs and alcohol to fill that hole so having that in a positive space and environment is huge for me,” he said.
Dawn learned about DV8 in June 2019 while she was living at a residential living facility, the Chrysalis House.
“I came in to eat actually and I saw a girl that had been at the Chrysalis House, Jenn, and I asked her if she liked her job and she said yes so I asked if they were hiring,” Dawn remembers. “She told me she was doing so well here that she didn’t need two jobs.”
At first, we thought Dawn would be a good match for the back of the house in the kitchen. Before long, however, we realized Dawn’s superpower: she is quite the conversationalist.
“[Thank God they realized] because I didn’t want to cook but I was going to work my way to the front. I knew they would see I didn’t cook well but I talked well.”
Now a couple years later, Dawn is studying medical billing and coding as she waits for a felony to be expunged. She is even considering a second major in psychology or sociology – anything where she can work with people! In the meantime, she is busy earning her degree and brightening customers’ days.
“I envision a full time job with a salary for the first time in my life. I envision a 401K and all those things I’ve never had – the things most people have already I will be beginning at near 50 so I have a lot of catching up to do, but that’s okay,” she laughed. “Stability is what I see and something that I can show my daughter.”
From the very beginning, Dawn said she realized DV8 was different because of the close-knit environment between employees. It wasn’t long before she said she really began to love working here.
“I fell in love with the job and I mean things changed me here because I got to be myself.”
Dawn loves seeing both new and familiar faces around the restaurant as customers come in to try out our food. Talking to people and getting to know our guests is one of her favorite parts of the job!
“[Guests] come here because they enjoy their time, they enjoy the employees here, and it is a win-win situation because not only are we happy to see them because they encourage us and they’re so friendly, they’re actually happy to see us!” Dawn said. “They have relationships with us. Some of them come weekly, some of them daily, and some of them come once a year because they’re driving through town but they look forward to seeing us because it’s such a friendly place and we have good food.”
Jake has been with us since the summer of 2019 and he quickly found his home here at DV8. A rockstar in the back of the house, Jake has a calming and confident presence that truly makes him the pulse behind the kitchen.
Jake was working at a moving company before coming to DV8 and although he had applied, he was also working toward his associate’s degree. Between classes and his job, he didn’t think there was time in his schedule for DV8, but he wanted to make it work.
“I prayed on it and then I got a call from here the next day and started,” he remembers.
Now a couple years later, Jake has completed his program at the Hope Center and is continuing his HVAC studies. He hopes to eventually work in heating and air after graduating. While he says it wasn’t intimidating coming in, he had never worked in a kitchen before.
“I thought I could cook until they showed me here and I realized I didn’t know anything,” he laughed.
Until then, Jake is working hard at DV8. Cooking bacon, building burgers, and working pantry is a normal day for Jake, although he says his favorite part is cooking eggs.
Now that he has mastered so many different areas of the kitchen, he continuously proves himself to be an awesome educator. Jake is the first to help lend a hand and show people the ins and outs of unfamiliar stations. A true behind-the-scenes man, Jake motivates people both in the kitchen and in their recovery. He does everything he can to make other people’s days go smoother, and we could not be more appreciative!
Jenn joined the DV8 family shortly after we opened in 2018 and has had her hand in lots of different areas. From greeting customers to working in the kitchen, Jenn can do it all! After learning the ins and outs of baking, she familiarized herself with our breads, jams, cinnamon rolls, and everything in between.
“I didn’t even like to cook before this so baking is a whole new thing. I’m not a cook or anything at home so it’s all new to me but my favorite part is just having the dough on the table,” she said. “It’s so therapeutic to work the dough and shape it and it’s very therapeutic for me.”
Now that she’s gotten used to the bakery, Jenn said she can’t imagine doing anything differently – even with the early mornings! Usually she starts proofing the dough and preparing all our baked goods at 4 a.m. We don’t know how things would run without her!
One of her favorite things about working at DV8 is the accountability.
“I mean I’m sober…that’s crazy to say. I’m a little over three years sober,” Jen said. “I was telling somebody this the other day like, I don’t know if I would still be clean if I worked anywhere else and I could go in high and nobody would know, but here I know the people would know and it’s the only accountability I have. DV8 is the only accountability I have right now. I’m not in any kind of court system and my program is just what I make it, so it’s a big change from when I first got sober. I’m very grateful for DV8.”
Jennifer is looking forward to moving her way up at DV8 as she continues to show all that she can do. One day, she says she hopes to become a manager. She also hopes to work with people in recovery as a mentor. Jenn has her peer support certification. The certificate classes taught her about helping people in early recovery and how to build an effective support system.
To start off the new year, Jenn said the best word she can think of to sum up her prediction for 2021 is “excitement.”
“We’re opening a new store and I’m super excited about that!”
We can’t wait to continue watching Jennifer develop her baking skills and do what she loves in our second location! Thank you, Jenn, for all you do!
Two years ago, John was working as an English professor. Using his PhD in rhetoric and composition from the University of Louisville, John was teaching his students to love writing in the same way he does. What people didn’t know, however, is that he was a “raging addict and alcoholic.”
When things took a turn for the worse and John lost his job, he found himself ready for recovery. His quest for sobriety took him to the Shepherd’s House. When he entered the residential living facility, he heard about DV8 and applied immediately in October 2019. The next day, John decided to take matters into his own hands.
“Sunday morning I woke up and I put on my best shirt – which is not that great of a shirt – and I rode a skateboard and I was like ‘Is this acceptable or not? I hope so,” John remembered. A brief interview later, John had a job.
Now, John is an absolute rockstar at DV8 in the front of the house. His eloquence is unmatched and his transparency is inspiring. From his gifted way with words to his brutal honesty about his struggle with staying sober at times, John is such a bright spot here!
While adjusting to a server’s life was at times a difficult transition for John, he said it was an “opportunity in a challenge.”
“There’s a lot to keep up with here. There would always be lots to keep up with during grad school and stuff, but that was different,” John reminisced. “You could sit back and think about it for a while, write some things, and go back to reflect, rewrite, revise. Here you don’t have that luxury. You have to be fast on your feet, have to be on point.”
After lots of practice, John now says this fast-paced environment has taught him to go on autopilot.
In the future, John hopes to pick writing back up. For now though, John is doing great work at DV8 and we are so thankful for him and his wisdom!
John has a message for anyone fighting with addiction or people who know someone struggling: there is always hope.
“I thought there was no hope but then suddenly there was. I’m sure everybody who’s been through this has stared right into the void, all of us have. I didn’t want to live anymore and all of a sudden there was hope,” he said. “I was scared of sobriety – it’s so scary – I was like ‘How can I do this?’ But we can and we’ve got to do it.”
One of John’s favorite quotes: “Recovery is not for people who want it or people who need it, but for people who do it.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts or actions, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255.
Before Kalyn came to DV8, she was faced with a difficult decision. A court case left her with two options: go to jail for a year or begin treatment for substance use disorder recovery. She chose the latter and soon moved into the Chrysalis House and found her way to DV8.
Since starting here, Kalyn has been such a light! She works three days a week, which she says gives her a “sense of accomplishment.”
“It’s really not about the money for me. This place does more for my recovery than anything else that’s going on in my life, which is weird because I wake up everyday and I come to work,” Kalyn mused. “It [provides] a bigger purpose to me personally.”
Kalyn stays in the front of the house whether it be greeting guests or working the register. Along with the skills she’s learned, Kalyn said she’s also been practicing transparency.
“One thing I’ve definitely learned about since I’ve been here is being transparent about where you’re at, you know, and where you plan to go because people aren’t mind reader’s and I feel like it’s gotten me much farther just being straight up, just being honest about things.”
Kalyn is our go-to! Need help with anything having to do with organization or accuracy? Kalyn is your gal! We are so thankful for her and all she does!
While Melanie can clean up front and serve guests, every other day she can be found driving all over town making deliveries. DV8 provides wholesale baking to different restaurants all around Lexington, so Melanie gets to visit each of our awesome partners. From Vinaigrette to J. Renders to The Bear & The Butcher, she manages to stay busy.
Melanie says she likes working in both the front of the house and deliveries because of the variety. When it comes down to it, Melanie says she couldn’t possibly pick a favorite.
“I don’t know if I could pick one because it’s a mixture and I like that! I love them both,” she said.
When she isn’t behind the wheel going from place to place, Melanie says her favorite part is talking to guests. While COVID-19 has posed some limitations that Melanie said were challenging, she’s thankful that we’re open and able to serve!
Looking ahead to the future post-DV8, Melanie wants to go back to school and eventually become a nurse. For the time being, however, she is making tons of fun memories at DV8.
Reminiscing on the time she’s spent at DV8 so far, Melanie said going to California was her “favorite memory ever.” Along with a small team of DV8 employees, we represented DV8 and shared our mission with a group in California thanks to Stand Together Foundation. We are so glad Melanie was able to come with us!
Back in July 2019, Michael came to DV8 from a recovery program in Georgetown and began living at the Shepherd’s House, a residential living facility here in Lexington. An experienced restaurant worker, Michael knew his way around the kitchen.
One thing he wasn’t quite prepared for was the early mornings…Michael wakes up around 3:20am on work days to come prepare bakery goods. Around 3:45, he begins to unlock the restaurant, proof the dough, make the pastries using a sheeter, and start production for the day. While he was comfortable around food because of his previous work experience, baking was entirely new to Michael.
“I picked it up really quick because I used to work in a pizza place so I was familiar with dough because I would make that in the morning, but here it’s completely different techniques baking-wise and prep-wise,” he said.
Although it was unfamiliar to him at first, Michael says it has helped him realize a new goal: culinary school.
“[Before DV8] I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I always had a thing with cooking but baking is now what I really want to go for.”
Whether it was learning how to use the grill or how to work pantry or how to build sandwiches, Michael says “every experience he got to have culminated into one big thing and I remember everything I’ve gotten to learn here.”
Outside of DV8, Michael loves to dance. While he hasn’t been able to dance as much as he would like, he studied dance for ten years prior to DV8 at his mom’s studio back home. From ballet to tap to jazz to contemporary, Michael says he loves it all.
With dance and culinary school potentially on the horizon, for now Michael is focusing on his work at DV8 and his sobriety. His biggest advice to people who know someone struggling with recovery is not to force them to do anything.
“Just be beside them waiting ready for them to make that decision themselves and support them along the way. If you try to force them to do it they’ll fight you, but if you stand there in the wings the entire time until they finally hit their rock bottom, then you’ll be able to take them by the arms and lead them to where they need to be.”