Get to Know Our Baker, Megan!

Many of our customers order whole pies and jam over the holidays. This year, for Thanksgiving alone, we sold about 100 pies! It makes us happy to know that the hard work our employees put into making those pies will be showcased on dinner tables all over Denver. It’s no secret that our employees with disabilities are involved in every step of making jam, but did you know they also help to make pies and other sweet treats we sell in the restaurant? Our baker, Megan, has made it a priority to include our employees with disabilities in the bakery and teach them new skills. Turns out, they teach her some important lessons, too! Read below to get to know Megan and how baking with people with disabilities encourages her to be present, in the moment.       How did you get into baking? My first memory of baking is with my mother, making chocolate chip cookies. I grew up watching my family cook and bake. For my twelfth Christmas, all I wanted was a KitchenAid mixer; the first thing I mixed was crust for lemon bars! Ever since then I have enjoyed baking.   It’s the holidays! Growing up, what sweet treats did your family serve? What is your favorite holiday treat? Growing up, my family always served pie and cookies. My favorite holiday treat would have to be pie-dough scraps that have been baked off. Growing up, I would always make pumpkin pie with my Grandma. We would always save the leftover dough and toss it in cinnamon and sugar, then bake it.   What is your favorite thing to bake? Cinnamon Rolls. Working with dough is soothing, methodical and brings my mind into focus.   You started doing these Friday specials that everyone loves; what is the motivation behind that? My motivation for the Friday specials is to allow both customers and myself try new things. I am grateful for the opportunity to express myself creatively through baking.   What are some other off-menu items you would like to bake? Eclairs and tarts.   What is your favorite part about working with people with disabilities? Do you have a favorite memory, so far? My favorite part about working with our clients is that they are honest, uplifting and hard-working. I have a lot of favorite memories about working with people with disabilities. Too many to answer…

National Disability Employment Awareness Month: Building Connections

Building connections is an important part of employment and can be uncomfortable for many of us. How do you make a connection? What do you say? Who do you build a connection with? A good connection can open many doors, whether it be a new job, a volunteer opportunity, or the chance to learn something new. Early on, Steamers and Jack’s employee, Luke, recognized the value of connections. Luke’s goal is to be a line cook. He has the potential: Luke is hard working, a team player, and focused.  About eight months ago, Luke independently approached Peter, the restaurant’s Prep Cook, and asked if he would teach him a few food prep tasks. That simple step of asking for guidance opened a variety of doors for Luke at work. Peter is now mentoring Luke and teaching him the skills he will need to get a line cook position in the future. These skills range from how to use the meat slicer to what to do if you are having a bad day and the hard work has paid off. Luke can complete a variety of tasks independently. Currently, Luke is responsible for cooking the chicken for chicken salad and making some of our more complex recipes. Have you tried the citrus vinaigrette? It’s likely Luke made it! Luke learned a lot of new tasks in a short amount of time, but still saw room for himself to grow. A few months ago, Luke requested some help. He was concerned that his reading level might prevent him from community integrated employment as a line cook. Specifically, Luke said “my dyslexia is holding me back from fully succeeding at work and accomplishing my dreams.” Luke recognized that he needed to build a new connection to help him with reading. He worked with a tutor in the past and saw significant gains in his ability to read and pronounce words. Luke knew what he needed but he did not know how to find the connection. Luke approached the Steamers Program Director and asked if she would help him find a reading tutor. After searching, Luke met with a few potential tutors. He identified strengths and weaknesses to working with all of the people he met. Ultimately, Luke chose to work with a Steamers and Jack’s regular customer, a retired school teacher. Now, the two meet weekly. Luke’s tutor finds articles in the newspaper…

National Disability Employment Awareness Month: Jill’s Raspberry Jam

Have you tried our Old Fashioned Raspberry or Raspberry Jalapeno jam? We purchase most of our raspberries from outside produce companies, but a small portion of the fruit we use is grown by one of our employees, Jill, and her family. Jill, along with her parents, Mary and Marlin, grow and pick raspberries in their back yard for A Different Kind of Jam every year. But once the fruit is picked, Jill’s job is not done. When Jill brings the raspberries to Steamers, she helps process (wash, dry, and cut) and cook the fruit and jar and label the jam. Next time you enjoy a jar of raspberry jam, look for Jill’s name on the lid! All of our jar lids are labeled with the name of the person who helped make that batch of jam. So, even if you don’t see Jill’s name, you still know whose hard work to celebrate! At Steamers and Jack’s, we believe celebrating milestones, however big or small, is an important aspect of employment. Taking the time to acknowledge a job well done or a new skill learned serves as a great reminder that all of the hard work and patience is worth it. What I love most about Jill is that she is always celebrating others. Whether it’s a hi-five after serving food to the customers or a soda for the cooks when the restaurant is busy, Jill makes sure everyone feels appreciated. She greets everyone with a smile and a fist bump, for good measure. All of the support Jill gives to others is returned to her. When Jill arrives to work, our back of house staff suddenly becomes a chorus. You can hear cheers and chants ringing out from the kitchen, welcoming Jill to work. That’s the beauty of our restaurant. We all work together, celebrate successes, and support each other, even on the hardest days. Because of our customers, we are able to employ about 60 adults with disabilities. Each time you grab a quick cup of coffee on the way to work, join us for half-priced slider nights on Wednesdays, or buy a jar of jam, you are making a real difference in the lives of our employees with and without disabilities. By supporting us, our customers give employees like Jill the opportunity to learn new work skills, try new things, and thrive. Saying thank you does not seem…

National Disability Employment Awareness Month: Internships at Steamers

In recognition of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, we will be sharing stories about Steamers’ employees through the month of October. Preparation for employment begins long before filling out an application and interviewing for a job. For people of all abilities, skill building starts in the classroom. Special Education programs are emphasizing the importance of preparing for employment more and more by using classroom time to teach transferable skills, from how to effectively communicate with others to what information will be needed on job applications. Transition programs for people with disabilities are also helpful in identifying options for students after high school. Each year, students with disabilities from local high schools complete internships at Steamers. They come to us for the year and learn valuable job skills that will help them transition out of high school and into competitive employment. Throughout their time at Steamers, these students learn knife and kitchen safety skills, the importance of keeping a clean working space, and how to portion meat and roll sliders. They help make jam and prepare guacamole and salsa. We also teach soft skills, which are the most necessary for employment and transferable across settings. Students work on effective communication: how to notify a supervisor they will be absent, how to communicate with peers, and work on a team. We teach ways to ask for help, if assigned an unfamiliar work task and tools for managing frustrations. Most importantly, we celebrate successes big and small along the way. This year, one of Steamers’ high school interns, Ethan, is the brother of another familiar face around the restaurant, Josh. Josh has been a line cook at Steamers since March 2015. Ethan had been to Steamers and Jack’s before, but only as a customer or to visit his brother. When asked why he wanted to do an internship at Steamers and Jack’s, Ethan said “to see what new things I can do, while I’m still in school.” He continued to say that he hoped his time working in the Prep Kitchen would help him get his dream job in the future: racing cars. Josh echoed Ethan, saying that he hoped his brother will “learn some new life skills and work hard, like our dad did.” The two brothers went back and forth about what they like to cook together (pasta, pizza, and steaks) to how they like to have fun, when they are…

Elsa, our very first employee!

Elsa was born in Italy and moved to Denver with her family when she was 10 years old.  And boy are we glad she did!  She had to learn English when she arrived, and made it through school.  She first started working at Mountain States Metal packing items.  She then worked at the airport putting together airport meals, she worked as an indoor painter and then she worked house keeper – until she found out about Steamers and has worked here for the past 10 years.  If you have stopped in to Steamers and had a cup of coffee any time in the past 10 years, it is highly likely Elsa made your coffee!!!!!  Everyone here wishes they could bottle Elsa’s joy. Tell me a little about your work at Steamers: “Me? Ah, (lots of laughter).  I like it so much. Better than the other one. Really nice people.  And Athan and Jack are nice people.  I like making coffee and doing everything.  And I like to talk with – doing things with people doing the things that need to get done. That’s it (more laughter).” What is your favorite part of your day? “Making the coffee.  Makes me happy. So happy.  I like to clear the table and I like to ask the customers if they need anything – a drink or something.  I like to call them sweetie. Some are really nice and say thank you which makes me happy.  I like to help Shirley – co worker – with things she does and she needs to do.  I am friends with people here.  I like to talk Italian with customers that come in.  I love working with Kellen!” How do you make the coffee? “Lets see (More laughter).  Put it into the filter. I measure how much is supposed to go in there, then I grind it and then put it in the machine.  I don’t know! That’s a hard one to say!! (Laughter)” Tell me about your interview 10 years ago: “You asked me what I had been doing.  I think Ken was with me that day.  I was working at the hotel but I didn’t  like the supervisor. She was too bossy and mean, she didn’t like the job I did even though I tried my best.  She didn’t like how I made the bed.  Athan told me I had the job and I started…

Good Bye is hard to say!

My name is Maddy Hornecker and I have been working at Jack’s Bar and Grill and Steamers Coffeehouse for the past 4 years.  During my time here, I have had numerous jobs, including working in the kitchen, bartending, and serving, working with clients, and now managing.  Jack’s and Steamers has become my family, my place of comfort, and has supplied me with the greatest memories. I am writing this blog because my time here has come to an end.  In May, I graduated from the University of Northern Colorado with a Mathematics Degree and will be teaching at Evergreen High School come August.  I would like to share a little bit about my time here, so the community can see the awesome opportunities and stories this tiny restaurant in Arvada has to offer. When I first started, I did not think this job would see me through my college years.  My most fond memories include laughing with the kitchen staff, catching up with regular customers, and having the ability to work with the 80 plus adults with developmental disabilities.  This place has truly changed my life.  It was here that I learned to appreciate the fact that I have the ability to work.  The kitchen staff that I have worked with over the years has always supplied me with many laughs.  Whether it’s them cracking a joke because I rang in a ticket weird or it’s a slow night and they are trying to find a way to entertain the staff, they always made sure to put a smile on my face.  Some of the regular customers have turned into regular people in my life.  If ever I was having a bad day, they were the first to talk it out with me.  The people that I had the pleasure of serving have had a great impact on my life.  I’ll never forget the twenty dollar bill that was slipped to me a week before I left for college, the wise words of wisdom I needed before a big test, or the simple “How’ve you been” turning into a counseling session that saved me numerous hours of stress.  The customers that I have had the pleasure of knowing will forever leave an impact on my life.  The clients that I have gotten to know and love will leave the biggest impact on my life.  Not only have they helped me…

The Chew!

      A few weeks ago, we were all hard at work in our prep kitchen gearing up for fall.  Fall is a busy time for us as we were up to our chins in peaches!  In just a few short days we had to blanch 500 lbs. of the best Palisade peaches!  In the midst of this, the phone rang.  The caller ID said “ABC – The Chew”.  What???  Yep, “ABC – The Chew”.  We answered the phone and the man on the other end introduced himself as a producer for the ABC daytime talk show “The Chew”.  You know, Mario Batali, Michael Symon, Carla Hall, Daphne Oz and Clinton Kelly.  Well, if you don’t know, it is a pretty big deal for a small little jam production place such as our prep kitchen.  The Chew airs nationally and is a show about food, restaurants and pop culture. They are focusing this season on the way the food can change lives and they were interested in what we are doing in our prep kitchen! Over the course of the next few weeks, we spoke back and forth with the producers and settled on a date for the shoot.  Although they were not sending out any of the hosts, they did send out a crew who filmed us for an entire day. They arrived on Wednesday, September 2nd with 4 people to shoot our prep kitchen!   Everyone wanted their chance to be on TV, but everyone was nervous also.  Before the shooting, we had a quick employee meeting.  We got everyone together and talked about how this is their chance to show the world (THE WORLD!!) that people with developmental disabilities can be the productive, efficient, and wonderful employees.  This is their chance to show other companies that they could – and should – hire people with developmental disabilities.  This is their chance to shine!  Together we were going to sell some jam, and I couldn’t have been more proud. Everyone stepped up, did their job and showed their true colors.  They were focused, funny, and worked hard.  They were not frightened by the camera’s; they were all calm, cool and collected.  The crew spent 4 hours filming in our prep kitchen and 4 hours interviewing one and one and filming in the restaurant.  I was also impressed with the crew and the producer from The Chew – Becky…

Jessica is moving from pre-vocational training to supported community employment!

My name is Cate Bailey. I am the Program Manager at the Steamers Pre-Vocational Prep Kitchen. I sat down with Jessica, one of my employees here at the prep kitchen to talk about her job here and what her future looks like. She told me about her time working at Steamers and how she recently found a new job at AMC. Jessica just obtained a supported community employment job with AMC Theatres at Flat Irons! Jessica is a 23 year old woman, who has been working in the Steamers Pre-Vocational Prep Kitchen since it opened in April, 2014. Steamers Pre-Vocational Prep Kitchen is a program that is designed to teach individuals who have developmental disabilities job skills, and prepare them for supported employment. The goal of what we do in the prep kitchen is for people to gain a wide variety of job skills and then to eventually move on to community based employment and use those learned skills. When Jessica started working at Steamers she had never had a job cooking or working with food, she had just cooked at home with her mom. Jessica told me she has liked and enjoyed her job here at Steamers Prep Kitchen. She told me her favorite part about her job has been her job coaches. She told me she likes them so much because they are nice and they are always there to help out. Jessica had a job coach who took her to apply for the job at AMC. She filled out the job application by herself and turned it into the hiring manager at AMC. A few days after turning in her application, AMC contacted Jessica and her mother about setting up an interview. Jessica’s job coach helped her prepare for the interview, and then took her to the interview. To prepare for the interview, Jessica’s job coach helped her choose an outfit and they practiced answering possible interview questions. Jessica’s job coach sat in on the interview with her, but Jessica answered all the questions and participated in the interview independently. Jessica told me they asked her questions like what her availability for scheduling might look like, if she thought AMC might be a fun place to work, if she enjoyed movies, and if she liked talking to people. After her interview, AMC offered Jessica a job on the spot! Jessica told me her new job will be working at the food counter as…

“Don’t let fear make a decision for you.” Sam’s story of being a blind baker.

  My name is Sam and I am 1 of 2 bakers at Steamer’s. My situation is a bit unique in that I am totally blind and I am a baker. “WHAT?!” you say. “Is that even possible?” you ask. I am living proof that it is possible! I started working at Steamer’s in April 2014 as an intern baker and after 3 months, I was hired on as a  permanent employee. With some adaptive equipment, I am able to bake with minimal assistance and I do my job just as well as a sighted person can. I love my job! I started taking an interest in baking at an early age and have always had a fascination with the exact science of baking and the delicious creations that come from it. After losing my vision 10 years ago, I wasn’t sure how I could continue baking or even function as a blind person. However, with some training from wonderful instructors and support and encouragement from family and friends, I am able to live a full and normal life. There are so many things that I like about Steamer’s – the friendly and happy environment, helpful and upbeat co-workers, the different and spunky personalities, and that everyone is treated equally, whether someone has a disability or not.   Steamers and Jacks has just brought on a new intern baker. His name is Matt and he is also blind.  It is my responsibility to teach Matt everything there is to know about baking so that he too can work with minimal assistance and still make the same quality of baked goods that the customers know and love. Yes, it is literally the blind leading the blind. There will be some challenges but I say: “Bring it on!” When I was sighted, I used to coach basketball and softball so I feel right at home teaching. Since visualization is out, we have to utilize our other senses, smell, taste and touch. For instance I can tell the difference between powdered sugar and flour using only my sense of touch. We use our sense of touch to tell if batter or dough is the right consistency. We use our sense of smell for lots of things like to tell the difference between spices and when something is finished baking. Matt is eager to learn and I am just as eager and honored to teach him.   I see myself as a role…

Garrett’s Blog

 One of the goals of our blog is to help give our readers and our customers a window into our little world. For this blog we sat down with Garret McGovern, our kitchen manager here at Jack’s and Steamers Coffee House.

When did you start working at Jack’s? I started in September of 2011 as a line cook.

 How did you get into cooking? I started cooking at my mom’s catering company when I was 10 years old in New Hampshire.

 Where else have you worked? In Denver I have worked at Fado, The Wynkoop, Andrews, and the Grandview.

When you first started working at Jacks what was your first impression?  When I first started working here I thought, “What the heck have I got myself into?” I started working here as a line cook and it was kind of a risk to start working at a tiny neighborhood place but I really believed that it was something special.

 Was it hard to get used to working in a kitchen with adults with developmental disabilities? It was really fun and really different and actually not as hard of a transition as you might think. It’s fun to work side by side with them and to try to explore what their special skill is and working to expand and develop their skills which benefits the over-all flow of the whole restaurant.

What is your favorite thing about working at such a unique place? There is never a dull moment at Jack’s. We have a very eclectic set of personalities here.

What’s your favorite thing to cook? My favorite thing to cook is probably seafood because I grew up on the east coast. It’s also my personal mission to bring fresh quality ingredients to our little neighborhood.

Is there anything you think customers should know about Jack’s that they might not know? In the future at Jack’s we are going to be bringing a lot of new exciting food to our little neighborhood. For example we’d like to offer more steak, more seafood and more home-style pub food.

What else is coming up for Jack’s and Steamers? With the addition of our prep kitchen we’re trying to expand into the wholesale market and hopefully maybe taking on a couple food trucks.