Since Victoria Brown was 8 years old watching cooking pros like Guy Fieri, Bobby Flay, and Emeril Lagasse on Food Network, she’s dreamt of owning her own restaurant.
Now 22, Victoria can almost taste her dream at Taco Bell where she recently began working full-time, was named Champion of the Week, and is making plans to modify her wheelchair so she can expand her job duties from the dining room into the kitchen. All this in less than three months.
“I didn’t expect to get Champion of the Week the first couple months of being here because my challenges have been difficult, getting my job processes,” she said, noting the Champion of the Week is awarded to someone who “shows initiative and works very hard to show what they have.”
Taco Bell General Manager Mandie Messer easily sees those qualities in Victoria.
“She’s done great. She’s always willing to help where needed and is really nice to the customers and her coworkers,” Mandie said.
Landing a restaurant job was no easy feat for Victoria even with the aid of her Goodwill Employment Specialist Elonaray Perkins. Although staff shortages have led some places to shorten operating hours and/or close dining rooms, some employers couldn’t envision how it could work and turned her away. But when she went to the Bridge Street Taco Bell, the manager there could and suggested the more spacious Western Avenue location would provide Victoria increased maneuverability to perform her job duties.
Victoria primarily runs register and cleans the dining area, but at times she also helps get drinks for the drive thru, restocks sauces, retrieves more bags from the back room, and preps chips and cinnamon twists.
“I was very excited,” Victoria said of getting the job. “I’ve been wanting a job since I was 18, so it’s a big step.
Victoria has long been preparing for employment. She worked in our Summer Youth work experience program two different years – once at Shawnee Campgrounds then at Shawnee Lanes.
“(Summer Youth has helped me in) being able to recognize different scenarios and being kind to people,” Victoria said.
Victoria also credits her instructors at Pickaway-Ross Career and Technology Center with preparing her well. She spent five years at the center having taken the opportunity to start her sophomore year of high school and continue after graduation in the Option 4 program. She has earned her high school diploma and completed her certificates in commercial foods as well as general warehousing and merchandising.
Kevin Krebs, a commercial foods instructor at Pickaway-Ross, was especially instrumental in not just an instructional way but being supportive when Victoria’s grandparents both died, she said.
“He was there at the funeral with me, and it showed a lot of dedication,” she said, adding he also attended a ceremony at Chillicothe High School where she was awarded a Student of the Year award. “I’ve been through a lot, and he’s been there. Him and my parents pushed me to do better.”
Victoria’s eyes sparkle as she outlines the kind of restaurant she dreams of opening – family dining with homestyle recipes.
“My parents are always saying you can do anything you put your mind to no matter my struggles,” she said. “I’ve pushed to have this job and this and other jobs will influence my creativity and mindset.”