LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) – DV8 Chef Michael Hedges loves to work with his hands.
“It’s sure to move your body, your mind,” said Hedges while baking at DV8 Kitchen’s new second location in the East End Hoagies neighborhood.
Staying active is a good thing because an idle mind, he said, is harmful to someone recovering from an addiction.
“I went the wrong way,” he said of his struggle with addiction.
Hedges said he had been clean for almost two and a half years. He had a support system throughout the pandemic, which was not the case for everyone in recovery.
The pandemic was particularly harsh for this population because it created a lot of isolation that left time to let your mind wander.
“We have seen a lot of relapses the old way,” said Rob Perez of DV8 Kitchen. “We are seeing a record number of heroin overdoses in this state alone, and that is a direct result of isolation.”
The CDC reports that Kentucky had one of the highest overdose rates in the country last year. In 2020 there were 2,104 overdose deaths. That’s a 53.7% increase compared to 2019 when there were 1,369 deaths from overdose.
However, the opening of the new restaurant has 25 new employees, most of whom are in the addiction cure. The original location on South Broadway has 24 employees.
“Hands down, it’s one of the best things to do,” said Hedges.
And it almost didn’t happen.
Perez said he took on the lease for the new building for the East End location just before the pandemic broke out. When things weren’t going well for the restaurant business, he wondered if he wanted to get out of the lease.
Then everything changed when restaurants started welcoming employees again.
“When we decided to use DV8 [on Broadway] back, it took me an hour and a half to get every single employee back and they wanted to come back right away and that was very different from our for-profit businesses and it convinced us we didn’t have to close that [East End] Project that we really had to open it up and that was because of the people in recovery who understood the value of a good job, “Perez said.
In comparison, it took three weeks to find enough employees in his other restaurant to cover three shifts for a week.
Fast forward to the East End location opening in August, DV8 Kitchen is thriving with its new employees. Perez hopes to eventually bring 15 more people to recovery in the two DV8 restaurants for a total of around 65 employees.