Restaurant owner works against the odds, employing recovering addicts

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) -- Everything on the menu at DV8 Kitchen in Lexington, Kentucky is made from scratch.

Fitting, because the employees there are looking for a fresh start, too.

"We're trying to work against the odds," said Rob Perez, owner of the restaurant.

Ninety percent of Perez's employees have some sort of addiction in their past, within the last two years. Jason Gibson is on his fourth try at recovery.

"In my 20s, it was opiates, oxycontin -- basically any opiate I could get my hands on. Lately, it had become more of a meth addiction," he said.

He's been staying at the Shephard's House for two months, one of the residential living facilities DV8 Kitchen pulls from for employees.

"I just hit the bottom. I was just tired of it. I couldn't do it on my own. I needed the accountability. I needed the structure," said Gibson.

Gibson also needed the support, which he gets with the fellow cooks in the kitchen.

"We talk quite a bit about it; our spiritual principles and the accountability aspect of it," he said.

"I can't tell you that when someone calls in sick, I don't shutter, I don't worry. I don't pick up the phone and want to manage the whole thing," Perez admitted.

He knows a lot about managing restaurants. Perez owns all three Saul Good's in Lexington. But DV8 Kitchen was a different kind of venture.

"Our pitch wasn't very sexy. We said, 'Hey, we have a really great idea that's probably a really bad investment. You want to hear about it?'" he recalled.

Investors did want to hear about it. DV8 Kitchen was fully funded in eight weeks.

The idea was an easy sell, but Perez wondered if the same would be true for the lesson.

"My concern is the stigma around addiction and the idea that if someone has a reoccurring bout of cancer, we treat them one way. But if they have a reoccurring bout of addiction, we treat them completely different," he said.

Perez said the launch of the concept was slower than expected.

"I think that some people are concerned about security and about whether they are going to get their money's worth when they come to DV8," he admits.

Week by week, just like the employees, the business is getting better. And that's just what Perez said his employees need to see.

"It's amazing what a little bit of success, building your self-respect, could do by just working hard and being good at what you do," he said.

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