MEDINA, Ohio — When you walk into Serenite Restaurant in Medina, you’ll be greeted with a smile and served upscale French cuisine.
But what you may not know, those smiling, serving and cooking, are also all recovering.
“From alcoholism to drug addiction to mental illness. We get them with the right people and get the right resources,” said Todd Whitman, the executive chef at Serenite.
At 538 W. Liberty Street, Serenite is the restaurant at the ground level and the Recovery Center of Medina County is upstairs.
“We have 12 step meetings in our recovery upstairs, we have financial classes, parenting classes,” said Whitman.
He said they take people into the culinary program throughout northeast Ohio, coming to the program either on their own accord or through referrals.
“They come through a screening. They fill out an application. They have to pass an alcohol and drug screening,” he said.
The students are in the program for eight months. They learn every aspect of the culinary industry, from the front of the house to the back and then the program helps them get a job in the industry or elsewhere after their time. They also have access to support services and classes.
“You can see if you want to serve, if you want to be a hostess, a line cook, a sous chef,” said Chari Madio, a future graduate of the program.
But while they’re learning culinary skills, they’re also learning to lead a different life.
“Especially when you first get clean and sober things are really hard,” said Whitman. “It takes a little time for change but then we start learning to like things that are new and exciting.”
Whitman can attest to the success, as he’s in recovery himself.
“I have over five and a half years of total abstinence,” he said.
Madio walked into Serenite knowing it was time to change.
“I was recommended to come here from my P.O,” she said.
Over the course of eight months, she’s found a new purpose.
“I learned to love it and it’s not easy, but it’s so fulfilling,” she said. “It took my mind off of myself, and my issues, and my struggles and my woes.”
As her time in the program nears a bittersweet end, she’s confident, not only, in her new abilities but in her new self.
“I’d still like to stay here for a little while longer and I still think there’s a lot to learn. I guess I’m a little scared,” she said. “I want to go to some place so that they can see the skills I’ve learned here.”
To check out Serenite, click here.