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Finding Independence, Employment Success Through the Culinary Arts


Jonathan Sleiman, 22, was first connected to SARRC through a ‘modified day’ program facilitated through his high school. The opportunity allowed him to spend a portion of his week with our Teen and Adult Services team working to gain and finesse skills as he prepared for his post-high school journey. 

At SARRC, Jonathan received support from a team of clinicians that allowed him to learn valuable work-related behaviors including navigating workplace culture, advocating in the workplace, and developing time management and executive functioning skills.  
His enthusiasm for the culinary arts also blossomed during this time, which led him down a path to explore meaningful, community-based employment — and a chance to apply his strengths and love for cooking. 

Jonathan was soon connected to the team at Steak 44, a Phoenix-based fine dining restaurant. The hiring manager was impressed and interested in Jonathan’s passion for cooking and hired him to help prep food for the dinner rush at the restaurant. 
“The very first paycheck I got, I felt really proud of myself,” Jonathan says. 

Since starting his job at Steak 44 in early 2021, Jonathan has gained increased responsibilities and duties on the job, and notably, has become more independent in his professional and personal life. 
At work, he has become more confident in requesting time off, and most recently, his hard work and dedication were recognized through a much-deserved pay raise. 
Jonathan’s mom, Sandra, shares that his tenure and increased responsibility are also evident at home. 
“He’s become much more independent. He makes sure his work clothes are clean and ready to go. And more recently, he’s even become more comfortable scheduling his Ubers to and from work.” 
Jonathan also brings his enthusiasm for cooking home and prepares a full dinner at least three times a week for his family.  
Sandra shares that this is the most confident they have seen their son and attributes his time at work in large part to his newfound independence. 

In the future, Jonathan hopes to transition to working on the kitchen's grill, which will allow him to expand his skills and responsibilities. 
Jonathan’s advice for employers is to hire more individuals with autism, because “we work hard, and we love our job.” 

He urges other individuals with autism to pursue a career that they love. “Go for it. Keep practicing and you will succeed,” Jonathan says. 

Learn more about Teen and Adult Services at SARRC

SARRC's goal is to ensure that people with autism are meaningfully integrated into their community with the opportunity to work and live more independently. Learn more about support we offer »


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