Downtown Greensboro restaurant to give a ‘new beginning’ to employees
By: Angelica Grady and Katie Murawski
Downtown Greensboro just got a new restaurant at the end of South Elm Street, and its mission is to put an underserved community first.
Kathryn Hubert is the owner and manager of Chez Genèse, located at 616 S. Elm St., and is looking to open at the beginning of October. Chez Genèse in French translates to “The place of Genesis” or “new beginnings,” Hubert said. New beginnings are something that she hopes to create for her employees, who are adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She plans to employ up to 50 percent or more of her staff with people who have intellectual and developmental disabilities so that Chez Genèse will be an integrated workplace.
“Community is a big part of our focus, both inside and outside of our walls,” Hubert said. “Obviously, I am super happy to have people who want to be here long-term, but we also want to provide a training ground. It is our goal to be a supportive work environment, but one that also that very closely mirror another restaurant experience so that the skills are transferable and people can easily obtain work at other places if they want to.”
Chez Genèse will be a full-service French-inspired restaurant that serves breakfast and lunch only. But Hubert said the space will be available to rent for private dinner parties or events.
Hubert grew up in Boone, North Carolina, and studied culinary arts at Caldwell Community College. She moved to France for a year to hone her craft, and then moved to Greensboro to study hospitality at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Hubert’s value and passion for service drives the message of her business, and she hopes to create a comfortable and authentic dining experience for her customers. During her time in France, she saw that French culture, food, and hospitality embodies the kind of service experience she hopes Chez Genèse will have.
“I love the community that happens around the table when you have a space that allows you to do that,” she said. “That kind of goes hand-in-hand with what we are hoping to do in forming partnerships with individuals that may otherwise have not been given a chance or opportunity, and valuing them. I think Greensboro is a great place to do that because of the community that it is already here and how receptive and willing the community is to rally behind a project.”
Having this kind of business has always been a dream of Hubert’s for the past six years. She felt like Greensboro needed a restaurant and training program for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities because of her own experiences. Her three cousins are on the autism spectrum and are the “inspiration and heartbeat behind the concept.” She’s also worked with the Autism Society of North Carolina and has worked in special education through the Guilford County School system for a couple of years.
For the time being, Chez Genèse will employ adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. However, she is considering the possibility of working with the homeless and ex-offenders who could use a new beginning themselves.
“My hope is that this concept isn’t me extending a hand of help or pity in any way, but instead acknowledging our belief in the capabilities that [adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities] have.”
Hubert said there are over 20 staff members who have started the training process and she said it has been going well.
“We have a pretty diverse staff in the sense that some of our leadership team is split between the restaurant and food service experience and also working with adults with disabilities,” Hubert said. “We have got a good blend, and I’d say we have a wide range of abilities as far as our staff is concerned, some individuals who are on the autism spectrum, down syndrome, a gentleman who is deaf who will be on our kitchens staff, so it is kind of varied.”
Hubert said that Chez Genèse does not have any minimum wage jobs and every employee gets paid above minimum wage.
“I think our lowest paying job is either set at either $8 or $8.50 and goes all the way up to $13.50,” she said. “We are kind of French all the way around. So, our service staff is getting paid a flat hourly rate, so it is actually a non-tipping restaurant.”
Hubert said this is for multiple reasons. One reason is that some employees who receive government disability services have a limit on what they can make at a job.
“By paying a decent wage for service staff, I think it elevates that position, and it puts the burden on me as the restaurant owner,” she said. “Which I think that it is not quite fair to place that burden on the customer. But it also encourages longevity within the company because you have a dependable source of income.”
Hubert said she had acquired all the necessary permits from the city, so she has started construction and renovations on the building. She is anticipating opening at the beginning of October.
To help with start-up costs and to get business rolling, Hubert mentioned that a local business (who wants to remain publically anonymous) has offered matching grant donations up to $10,000 to anyone who donates to the restaurant’s online campaign. This means that any other donations to Chez Genèse’s GoFundMe page (www.gofundme.com/chez-genese) will be matched dollar-to-dollar (up to $10,000) by the anonymous local business.
For updates about Chez Genèse and to find out the grand opening date, be sure to follow its Facebook and Instagram pages (@chezgenese). To learn more about the restaurant visit the website, www.chezgenese.com/.