BELMAR, New Jersey -- Chef Michael Harrison and his apprentice Alaina DeMauro, a 22-year-old living with autism and Down syndrome, have cooked up the recipe for the perfect dream team.
The dynamic duo is delighting clients with their mouthwatering dishes at the Belmar Fishing Club in Belmar, New Jersey; an opportunity that has allowed Alaina to gain life-changing skills and confidence.
"When Alaina was small, we had a vision for her that she would be able to live independently with support and self-direct her own life," said Alaina's mother, Jennifer DeMauro.
Related: Dance program for people with special needs boosts self-confidence and joy!
Every Thursday, you will find Alaina and Chef Harrison cooking it up in the kitchen, prepping anything from shrimp scampi to shrimp tacos.
Guided by Chef Harrison, Alaina has gained the confidence to chop vegetables and assist with other kitchen duties independently.
Additionally, Alaina lives in her own place in Belmar, with the assistance of two aides who she calls "co-workers".
"I really didn't know what to expect, but I'm really glad I took the chance to work with someone who isn't different from everybody else she just has her own way of learning and set of skills," said Chef Harrison.
Chef Mike hopes that his story with Alaina can inspire others to open up opportunities to individuals with special needs, an experience that has undoubtedly proven to be life-changing for Alaina and the Chef himself.
Contact Community Journalist Miguel Amaya
Submit a tip to Miguel
Follow Miguel on Facebook
Follow @Miguelabc7NY on Twitter
Follow @Miguelabc7NY on Instagram
New Jersey special needs chef perseveres in the kitchen