Chez Gènese: Genesis or ‘A new beginning’
Kathryn Hubert is reminded of her new beginning every day. Although, Chez Genèse, her French-inspired cafe has not quite reached its one-year anniversary mark (that happens in late October), one year ago she was in the throes of remodeling her space in downtown Greensboro with an eye on a dream—to find her place in the hospitality industry while helping young adults with mental and intellectual disabilities.
The concept at Chez Genèse has been a dream of Hubert’s for years. “It started out as a really random daydream…If I could have any job in the world, what would it be?” Hubert said she knew almost instantly that it would be to open a restaurant hat helped people achieve a first or second opportunity in life. Inspired by her cousins who have autism, her dream narrowed in scope to working with young adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities. “They are the heartbeat behind my mission.”
Hubert already had a culinary degree. She lived in France for a year to study French cuisine, and afterward graduated from UNCG with a degree in hospitality. From there, she began working with autistic youth, and during that time, she began to visualize her calling.
The young entrepreneur calls her Chez Genèse “French-inspired” in service and cuisine. “I love French food and culture,” she said. “I think the generosity that the French have with their time and with their food and the mentality of taking simple, quality ingredients and spending time on them fits hand-in-hand with what we are trying to achieve from a mission perspective,” to create a culture that serves.
Taking the fast-paced, stressful nature of the restaurant industry into consideration, there was a special hiring process for those on her staff with disabilities. “It’s noisy. There are sounds, smells, visual and personal interaction.” Hubert needed to know from each of the applicants how they handled stress and what they would need from her. Training was a good two months, followed by intensive training two-weeks before opening with refreshers simulating real-life experiences and a lot of repetition to increase the staff’s confidence.
“No one on our staff had worked in a restaurant before so we were able to train them the way we wanted to.”
Chez Genèse is breakfast and lunch only with no plans to change.
“It allows us all to get back home to our families and recharge and helps us look forward to those special events.”
Hubert said she enjoys feature nights, wine dinners, and special events because it allows her to break out and test her creativity outside of the regular menu. The Chef’s Table menu was an example of a playful take on seasonal ingredients, celebrating Bastille Day.
Grilled Peach Burrata Salad with Arugula
Peaches and blueberries, the fruits of the season, brought beautiful sweetness to this starter course, and it contrasted so well with the slightly bitter arugula. Creamy burrata is a welcomed addition to anything at any time for me.
Dry-rub Pork Ribs with Herb Butter and Apple/Fennel Slaw
The smells coming from the kitchen were signaling what was to come and tantalized us as we awaited its arrival. The rub gave a great smoky char to the ribs while the tart and sweet slaw cleansed the palate and kept you going back for more.
Cheese Course with French Bread, Honeycomb, Fruit
Hubert wanted to really immerse the group and give us the quintessentially French cheese course. A cheese course is quite fun and a nice departure during a tasting, particularly after the main course. It readied us for the sweet dream to come.
Champagne and Raspberry Ice Cream Float
Super simple and luscious and bubbly. The float was reminiscent of our childhood days with a nice adult spin.
The guests at the Chef’s Table and any patron who visits Chez Genèse knows the time that the kitchen staff is putting in and there’s a sense of patience and graciousness on both sides of the table, from guest to server. And the servers are there for the long haul.
“During our one-on-one meetings, so many of our staff members told us they see this place as their career goal,” Hubert said. “We want them to be here as long as they want to be here, but we’ll also gladly help them be to be a stepping stone on their career path.”
Knowing that Hubert said the cafe is just now at the place where they can help those that want to stay long-term and find fulfilling ways in which to do so. “We’re now asking our employees what they want to do and how we can help them fulfill that personal need of developing new skills or do something different, so they don’t feel stuck in the same job.”
And that leads us to what Hubert’s next dream will be, and that is to make a broader impact than just her business. The cafe already offers workshops and is focusing on a strong catering business.
In the next year, she plans to roll out a training program for individuals to get training and life skills, and she will network with other businesses for job placement. “We could be a revolving door to set people up to succeed in other workplace settings,” she said. “If you know what drives someone and what motivates them and what they love. If you can tap into that and they come into work, and they get to do what they love, their productivity goes up as well as their enjoyment. And I think you can feel that as a team and as a guest when you come here.”
Kristi Maier is a food writer, blogger and cheerleader for all things local who even enjoys cooking in her kitchen, though her kidlets seldom appreciate her efforts.
Chez Genèse is located at 660 S. Elm Street, Greensboro. Open for breakfast and lunch, brunch on Sunday.