A Restaurant Takes On the Opioid Crisis, One Worker at a Time

Jul 10, 2018 · 49 comments
Xitlaly Orzechowski (Warren, Michigan)
A Restaurant Takes on the Opioid Crisis, One Worker at a Time https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/10/dining/addiction-recovery-restaurant-... Reading this article inspired me to think twice about addiction. Rob and Diane Perez have help people through addiction because they are noble people. Today in reality people think of addiction as something that is fun to do but until they know someone in their family overdoses on drugs and dies then that is when they double think things about addicted people on drugs. I think that people who overdose are mentally ill and they just need help. I am glad that there are people who hire these people to give them a second chance.
Amaris (New Jersey)
I decided to read this article because I find giving people a second chance to prove not only to themselves but, to others that they’re able to change and overcome difficult obstacles and challenges that they may be going through. A restaurant in Kentucky owned by Rob and Diane Perez found out that thirteen of the of their DV8 employees were doing drugs or had other addictions.(Link) “Last September, they opened DV8 Kitchen, a restaurant that not only hires people in treatment for addiction to opioids or other substances but also focuses its entire business model on recovery, using the restaurant setting as a tool for rehabilitation.” This shows that out of the kindness of the owner's hearts they wanted to give people with addictions another chance at a job but at the same time, have them recover! It brought me extreme joy knowing Mr. And Ms. Perez wanted to help and “take a nationwide crisis into their own hands.”,And being able to make do with what they have available to help out such a number of people. (Edited)
Jennifer (rural IL)
I am so pleased to hear of this. I help people addicted to opioids in our clinic and wish we had a resource like this. Some of them feel like they are doomed to live like this as they were born into it. I have dreams for them that I want to transfer to their brains so they know there is HOPE and a future free of drugs. If we happen through Lexington, I WILL be going to DV8. I want to meet these incredible people. And the owners too.
Jen DiVito (Pennsylvania)
I support DV8 Kitchen and their mission to help recovering addicts.Their dedication to shape such a relevant and tragic epidemic into hope is awe-inspiring. At DV8 Kitchen, gift giving goes both ways. The Perez family, owners of DV8 Kitchen, "gifts" recovering addicts with a second chance at life, while the employees focus on "gifting" customers with delicious treats. The founder's business revolves around the idea of recovery while using the restaurant as rehab for the recovering employees. In a world where drug related deaths are rising at an alarming rate, symbols of hope (like DV8) can save people who may be acquaintances of Death. My previous claim was solidified when Jennifer Ratliff, a cook at DV8, shared her experience while working the grill, "it's a huge coping skill for me... and then seeing customers' reaction when they take a bite, brings a sense of accomplishment." Proof like Jennifer's is valuable in the form that former addicts CAN recover from addiction at rehabs like DV8. Although the battle with drug addiction is far from won, places like DV8 Kitchen takes us one step closer to victory.
Connor Ferguson (Kentucky)
I am without a doubt a very political person. With this being said, I hopped on the times tonight in search of something controversial going on in the crazy world we live in today. However, I stumbled across this. Knowing how bad the opioid crisis is, the headline drew me in from the beginning. Little did I know, this article would bloom into a beautiful story to help escape the negativity that takes place in most of the other things we read/hear about. To start off, I am very proud that this restaurant is located in my home state of Kentucky. Knowing this I plan to visit it in the near future.. I mean, who wouldn't want to support this? It is so easy in todays society to take someone who has made mistakes and just kick them to the curb. Yet at DV8 they embrace them. This is crucial to helping someone cope with drug addiction, especially because neglect could have been what made them start abusing in the first place. Additionally, many addicts struggle with having to hide their own identity but don't have to here. This is because every employee has gone through the same thing in some shape, way, or form. Another reason this is so great is because the employees may struggle to find friends outside of work, so no matter what they have people that understand them. Furthermore, in the restaurant industry location is everything. With DV8'S mission to help recovering addicts, they did a great job with their location, being very close to near by rehabilitation centers. GO DV8!
Olivia Huttenlocher (Michigan)
This article was very interesting to me. When people see other people who are addicts, they throw them to the side and don't even think twice about it. This couple realized that the opioid crisis was a big issue where they were in Kentucky and they took matters into their own hands. People do not understand that these people didn't mean to become an addict. No one just chooses that for themselves. This couple saw that and helped them out. They helped these people who are in recovery to understand that the addicts are not alone. This couple is remarkable for doing this for all these people. This company can change the world if we all just saw it as a way of helping others in need.
Reba (Mississippi)
Hooray, hooray, hooray!!!
Hochelaga (North )
In reply to CK: HOW ,how, how are you going to "prevent addicts"? (or addiction). People do not have as their life plan to become an addict or alcoholic.They become addicts because of their physiological and emotional make-up. By the way, working alone in "some solitary activity" is not good! Ask addicts/alcoholics who have relapsed to track the tell-tale signs on the road to slipping and you'll find that almost all say, "I started to isolate" and that led to loneliness/worry/depression, etc.... It is good to work with others, to contribute to the well-being of others, to feel "part of ". There's no one solution, it's not all black or white. You keep trying, you NEVER give up, you help each other out through experience and sheer human kindness. This restaurant is helping! I wish people wouldn't come along with a black cloud and pour cold,heavy rain upon good news! The very vocabulary you use is negative! Check it out: dope addicts ,drug addled,not treatable, junkie,ugly habit.
Blues Mama (Washington State)
Thanks for publishing this piece! What a breath of fresh air.
ann nicholson (colorado)
What a great article-It sheds light on a very dark problem faced by so many-As a recovering acholoic I understand-Many thanks to the Perez’s they are wonderful folks and the angel wings behind them in front of their restaurant is so appropriate-America needs more Perez’s-
Amaris (New Jersey)
I decide to read this article because I find giving people a second chance to prove not only to themselves but to others that they’re able to change and overcome difficult obstacles and challenges that they may be going through. A restaurant in Kentucky owned by Rob and Diane Perez found out that thirteen of the of their DV8 employees were doing drugs or had other addictions.(Link) “Last September, they opened DV8 Kitchen, a restaurant that not only hires people in treatment for addiction to opioids or other substances but also focuses its entire business model on recovery, using the restaurant setting as a tool for rehabilitation.” This shows that out of the kindness of the owner's hearts they wanted to give people with addictions another chance at a job but at the same time, have them recover! It brought me extreme joy knowing Mr. And Ms. Perez wanted to help and “take a nationwide crisis into their own hands.”,And being able to make do with what they have available to help out such a number of people.
SRF (Oakland CA)
What a joy to read about these angel owners! Recovery and maintaining sobriety is so very much one minute at a time, let alone, one day at a time. They deserve to thrive and be successful as they provide structure and caring with great boundaries, to their employees on the road to sobriety. Bill and Lois W and the entire W family are smiling down from above!
Michele (Minneapolis)
This is simply great! The Perez's are truly creative people with an insightful approach to the restaurant business and life. It's ironic that the public was initially hesitant to try DV8, because what the public doesn't know is that these same social problems are present throughout the restaurant industry and many other industries, including health care and other white collar, professional fields. The difference is that the Perez's are directly addressing addiction issues and improving their employees lives while also giving the community a desirable amenity.
Hannah (Michigan)
To me this article was interesting. As I was reading it, I felt like I could understand each individual`s struggle with opiates. I never knew these kind of things could happen in a restaurant. But the fact that Mr. Perez and his wife want to settle this problem and prevent many more from dying is such a great thing. Hiring and giving them another chance to show that they are capable and strong. I really felt this article through an emotional challenge and a physical task. I`m just really glad that this restaurant is a place where people who are addicted can change their life around.
fred (ny)
Interesting article, I've seen this concept but on a higher level in Cleveland OH, It's called EDWINS. They have housing, a library and another restaurant mentioned called Serenite. High end stuff but it teaches a skill to the top. That's the key, excellence, its always in demand. I thought it was a unique concept but great to see people following their work. Solving problems that the government cannot fix is the future of this country. Keep pushing it!
Mark (FL)
Edwin's Restaurant in Shaker Heights, Ohio has been doing great work, as I'm seeing other foundations doing the same. Edwin's has AMAZING French food and is a tough reservation to secure. To all who offer a second chance, we salute and thank you https://edwinsrestaurant.org/about-us/
Glenda Kaplan (Albuquerque, NM)
This is such a wonderful thing, both for the people in recovery and the couple who owns the business. Addicts deserve the opportunity to earn a living and their sobriety. It is great to read about people positively affecting the lives of others, whether they are employees, their families, or the customers they serve. Tolerance and understanding are in short supply in American culture it seems, and these people are a great example of how those things can improve the lives of all.
Southern by birth (Kentuckian by the grace of god)
And Bevin as our governor. We've tried to give him back to Connecticut, but they won't take him. :(
Jamie (Seattle)
Thank you for this great story, a ray of hope in bleak times.
poslug (Cambridge)
Locally much of the drug dealing is done out of the back door of restaurants or so a friend who is a cook tells me. The rest is at motels and hotels where guests buy from staff. Very invisible to the police.
helloworld (Charlotte, NC)
Why is it that every time I read a story in the NYT of a person or community trying to do something positive, the comments are usually finding fault? This, more than anything else, is what depresses me about human beings. Whenever someone tries to do something good, however imperfectly, there is always a crowd of people wagging their fingers and saying that they are not doing it right! "Yes, that's OK, but blah blah blah." My advice to DV8 is to keep trying to help these recovering addicts as best they can, knowing that it never gets perfect, and ignore all the dissatisfied and self-righteous know-it-alls on this site.
s einstein (Jerusalem)
"“We are not certified experts... “We are just providing the piece of the puzzle that is giving people a job right away when they are getting clean.” Having worked in the stakeholder created "field of addictions" since 1960, in a range of roles, I feel secure in stating that these two good people KNOW and UNDERSTAND what many "drug experts" choose not to consider: "Drug/alcohol treatment" is a self-fulfilling-mantra. Voiced, and written about, by agenda-driven stakeholders. Representing a range of professions, non-professional and unprofessionals. And ideologies. Effective "treatment," is simply a complex, dynamic, multidimensional CHANGE process. Over necessary periods of time.By oneself as well as with the help of a range of supportive others. Who know what they are doing. As change agents, able to learn, using a range of proven techniques. For achievable-selected goals. For that person. Couple. Family. Community. Aware of and utilizing a person's available and accessible internal resources, interacting with relevant, necessary external ones.To create, maintain-sustain and promote viable,achievable ranges of goals.Not either/or, homogeneous ones.Abstinence ONLY. Or lifetime only methadone.For diverse populations."Different strokes for different folks" is folk wisdom. Which transmutes knowing to understanding.Even to states of empathic-wisdom about what is achievable in given situations and what is man's power-driven arrogance. CDV8 offers nourishing, satiating change!
Steve Beck (Middlebury, VT)
I am glad this happened in Kentucky with Mitch McConnell as their Senator. They need something to feel good about.
Paul (Ocean, NJ)
Spot on Steve. I would not be at all surprised if McConnell never heard about this place or would set foot in it.
What great people. What a great idea.
Economy Biscuits (Okay Corral, aka America)
Yesterday I watched Bourdain's "Borneo" episode on Parts Unknown (Netflix). The piece was a redundant, besotted-alcohol drenched affair that was difficult to watch. Tribes people were passing out after hammering whisky, beer and local hooch for days. Um, boring. Whatever A.B. was, he was clearly an alcoholic. In the late 70's I worked in a pizza restaurant on Miami Beach. Kitchen help there were doing downers, chased by wine coolers. People's arms were massively scarred from having their arms bounce off the insides of 400 degree pizza ovens. I'm a long way from a tea total but gawd, the endless tales of America's self abuse gets seriously tedious. Restaurant kitchens tend to be extremely stressful work environments. Probably not the best place to work out one's addiction.
CJ (New York City)
Great pro-active work. Please also work to get rid of your toxic senator Mitch McConnell. Do us ALL some good. Work to get increased state funding for education & treatment of this scorge at the same time removing a state and national tumor.
BIll Duston (Charlotte, NC)
With the airwaves filled with gloom, doom and vitriol, how refreshing it is to find people who really care about others and put their faith and money into doing something positive. Two thumbs up to Rob and Diane- and to their employees who are doing something constructive to turn their lives around. I cannot wait to eat one of their cinnamon rolls!
DD (New York, NY)
All sentiment and no science at all behind the supposed opioid addition-healing properties of working in the retail food industry - the central theme of this article. Total feel good nonsense that conveniently ignores the glaring fact that the retail food industry is one of the most brutally exploitative service industries in today's economy. The food service industry employs a work force that probably numbers in the millions. A mass of people who because of socio-economic disadvantages in education and affluence, toil everyday for routinely extended working hours under conditions that most middle class people would go home crying every day if they had to endure -- heat, massive stress, dangerous working condition of scalding utensils and cooking devices, constantly slimy floors, spoiling food, appendage severing devices of all kinds and --all in exchange for pathetically low wages. This article is a feel good cover piece for having a terribly vulnerable subgroup -- opioid addicted individuals who are part of an already massively socio-economically disadvantaged working class -- build their own working class prison without walls.
Rufus (Planet Earth)
Agree 100%. This article is the primary reason I don't eat out and if I do I am very careful where. A coffee at Starbucks-ok. I want to see and know who is cooking my food that I will ingest. A fellow here opened a pizza shop with the aim to hire the homeless to deliver the pizzas- no thanks.
LMH (Minnesota)
So what are you doing to help? Criticism is easy.
Hats off to all those involved in this business. As one who works in the recovery/treatment field, gainful, supportive employment is definitely one of two top contenders that my clients struggle to obtain. The second issue is supportive housing.
BrendaT NYC (New York, New York)
Finally, a story I can feel good about! This is wonderful and inspiring and I applaud DV8. The only thing I would add is that it isn't necessarily that the hospitality industry creates substance use and abuse. Kitchens, in particular, are ideal places for people with "issues" to work. Many people who have non-traditional habits are drawn to a creative, chaotic environment which is more tolerant of quirky characteristics than other workplaces. Whether people came to the kitchen with substance issues, ratcheted them up while there, or developed them at work is somewhat immaterial. The only reason I bring it up is that I wouldn't want people to get the wrong idea about hospitality work. It can be a wonderful, inclusive, safe and rewarding place to work.
Jay Strickler (Kentucky)
I love this place. The food is fabulous, the staff is welcoming and professional, the ambiance is warm and upbeat.
CK (Rye)
Nice sentiment. Not a great idea. Addicts trying to stay clean should work alone in some solitary activity, outdoor labor, etc. A social scene at work is not comradery or support for dope addicts it is networking possibilities for drugs. I worked in restaurant kitchens and can attest that they are among the most drug addled of workplaces. The stories would blow your mind. The very idea that you would use a restaurant to treat addicts is troublesome, because when they move on they'll go to places with booze and users. There isn't a restaurant that serves alcohol that does not have available drugs from a worker or customer. And to the point, heroin addiction is not "treatable" in any normal sense of the word. It can be maintained with substitute drugs, but the addiction is life long. And that said, the junkie is not the victim. In the drug cycle of seller / new user / addict, the victim is the new user. Addicts maintain the cycle for the seller and very often generate new users by sharing their ugly habit. The focus should not be on saving addicts, but on preventing addicts.
Tp (maine)
The same can be said for the alcohol industry.
@CK Wow. I've never in my life seen so articulate an expression of "kick them to the curb". Solitary existence is what leads to addiction in the first place.
Nancy Friel (Sacramento, CA)
Rob and Diane Perez are to be commended for seeing people with addiction as people first, and for providing stable employment to people attempting recovery who deserve a chance to make a contribution and need to make a paycheck. That being said, this article implies that a job with a recovery-supportive employer might be a missing piece in the puzzle to prevent death and improve outcomes for people with opioid dependence. Unfortunately, contrary to that lovely idea, there is no scientific evidence to support bread making, or employment in general, as a therapeutic agent to treat opioid dependence. Opioid dependence has the highest relapse rate (most addicts relapse across the lifespan) and highest death rate of any of the drugs of choice. Every time I read one of these heartwarming articles, I immediately search for a reference to evidence-based treatments, and usually find none, as I found in this article. There is abundant evidence that medication assisted treatment - which includes methadone, buprenorphine, or naltrexone - produces superior outcomes for opioid dependent individuals. Abstinence-based treatments are largely unsuccessful. Please, Priya Krishna, when you and your colleagues cover the opioid epidemic, include facts about effective treatment. You will save lives if you do. For further info, go to NIH - NIDA website and look for their publication: "Effective Treatments for Opioid Addiction".
Kimberly (Los Angeles, CA)
Real people doing real things to help real people what a great piece.... Kudos to them and to all who work and support them...
wmnyc (ky)
I didn't take this to mean that the folks who work at DV8 get no other help with their addiction - in fact, I assumed that they do (although not sure if I assumed they all took or take the meds you mention). It does seem to me that it was about creating a positive working environment for people new to recovery. I'm actually concerned if some of them move on to other restaurants, that the standard restaurant culture there would be too tempting, and not supportive of their particular needs and desire to stay clean.
I am a puggle-muggle (Erewhon)
Dear Ms. Friel, thank you for your comment. And after all, is this truly stable employment when a single tardy event is grounds for termination? Can no-one make a simple (non-intoxicated mistake) with a mandoline? Life is hard. Science may be harder. But without science,and its hard fought evidence, one fears Rob and Diane Perez hold up a hollow trope current in our nation; one of a moral root of addiction. This lack of ethical carriage is without merit, no matter how well meant. Still, good they try. Thank you.
jazz one (Wisconsin)
My brother used to own and manage a 'home-style' family restaurant, doing all 3 mealtimes. No liquor license. It was a hub of community, and a sometimes a challenge to keep staffed. Alongside a cadre of whip-quick career waitstaff, he 'rescued' many a nearby high schooler from the life of addiction, and also found a way to include young people with some learning disabilities, Down's Syndrome, etc. All of these youths that 'made it' find my brother unforgettable (he IS an amazing person) for his kind yet firm nurturing and teaching manner -- teaching about life, not just restaurant work -- and upon a recent hospital visit, one young man with a learning disability hailed my brother and his wife from across the room -- he was now working full-time in the hospital's cafeteria! Not all 'made it' however; there was at least one overdose, and a few that really struggled. One older dishwasher comes to mind, it was always a bit of breath-holding whether or not he'd make it in for a shift as scheduled. Personal family tragedy led to the reluctant closure of this community institution 15 years ago ... but it was a life changing experience for so many, and often, life-saving.
Savvy (SF)
Thank you to the Perez’s. I wish I lived near DV8.
Left Coast (California)
"I wish I lived near DV". That would require living in Kentucky. No food or culture scene would be worth that move. But yeah, I wish we had more places like DV8 everywhere.
Teacher (Kentucky)
It is an inspiring story. And for the record, the family is genuinely nice and the food is great too!
Lazlo Toth (Denver)
Essentials for a real life including a sense of accomplishment, having positive co-workers around you, a wage above minimum, and interactions with the public to boost self-esteem and confidence. These are all great essentials for recovery and so pleased to know that the restaurant is providing them. The outcomes are so great relative to costly and often futile rehab centers much less corrections, jails, or detention for having the disease of addiction. Congrats to KY. for finally finding a way to dig out of the mess other than a rehab scam costing upwards of $40K a month.
Kim (Harlem, NYC)
Thank you for telling this story. Most inspiring thing I’ve read in a very long time.
Dave (Mass.)
Amen...could not agree more...great idea and story !!
C (Brooklyn)
Every now and then you read something so inspiring that the only thing you can say is Thank You. The Perez's have looked at a problem that has vexed so many and found a way to help. Perhaps the best answer is after a number of months they turnover an employee to another restaurant so they can start a new one there. And then keep the Tuesday meetings for all employees current and past. Keeping that part of the community intact. Made my day.
See also