(K-LOVE News – by Monika Kelly +podcast) 

In 1990, Rob Perez had hit 'rock bottom.' 

Alcohol and drugs had taken away everything he held dear--his friends, his family's respect and his personal dignity.  

"My addiction started to take over where I didn't remember coming home. I made choices that I wouldn't have made if I wasn't drinking or doing drugs and it was hurting the people I was with."

 At 25 years old, Rob checked into an outpatient rehab.

LISTEN HERE:

"I worked really hard and it totally changed my life. It was the genesis of my getting back in touch with Christ too."

Homemade croissant roll with drizzle and nuts
[Photo Credit: Sam Perez/DV8 Kitchen] DV8 Kitchen, Lexington, Kentucky

Now sober for nearly 30 years, Rob Perez is happily married with two adult children. He and his wife, Diane, opened several Lexington, Kentucky restaurants called Saul Good Restaurant and Pub.  

Diane and Sam Perez outside
[Photo Credit: Sam Perez/DV8 Kitchen] Diane and Sam Perez, owners DV8 Kitchen

After losing several of their restaurant employees to drug overdoses, Diane convinced Rob to do something completely out of the box--open up a non-profit restaurant designed specifically to help recovering addicts and alcoholics find employment. Former addicts often have a hard time getting work, especially with several felonies on their record.

Three people in the DV8 kitchen, smiling
[Photo Credit: Sam Perez/DV8 Kitchen] DV8 Kitchen workers

DV8 Kitchen was born--a fast-casual restaurant and bakery designed to build relationships with their sober employees. Rob and Diane strive to keep recovery accessible and available to their workers, even to the point of closing during dinner hours so that their employees can attend 12-step support meetings at night.

Exterior of DV8 Kitchen with benches, a man and his dog, plants
[Photo Credit: Sam Perez/DV8 Kitchen] DV8 Restaurant, Lexington, Kentucky
Homemade croissant with bacon, eggs and cheese
[Photo Credit: DV8 Kitchen/Sam Perez] Homemade croissant with bacon, eggs and cheese

The owners believe that giving recovering people a second chance at employment can open doors that will lead each person to a completely different life--to deviate from their old ways. 

A metal crate full of homemade jam
[Photo Credit: DV8 Kitchen/Sam Perez] Jams by Tiff at DV8 Kitchen, Lexington, Kentucky

 DV8 Kitchen also has an in-house bakery, designed to equip and train their employees with a trade. 

A woman in a bakery, making buns
[Photo Credit: DV8 Kitchen/Sam Perez] DV8 Kitchen bakery, where workers get trained to bake

When asked about the most rewarding part of owning DV8 Kitchen, Rob says, "Oh, one hundred percent, it's the people. The people that work...are all in the early stages of recovery and there's 24 of them. They're smart, they're funny, they're hard-working...they're my friends. They're wonderful. They have unlimited capacity for excellence and they're a joy."

Busy interior restaurant, lots of people
[Photo Credit: Sam Perez/DV8 Kitchen] DV8 Kitchen, Lexington, Kentucky

Rob says you don't have to be a certain kind of person to hire a recovering addict or alcoholic. 

"I think so many people get caught up thinking you have to be a social worker to hire someone in recovery, but they don't. Secondly, I think people think to hire someone with a past of addiction you have to lower your standards, and honestly, I believe that you need to increase them. Our folks really rise to the challenge and they do produce work that's twenty percent better if they're just asked."

A pan filled with various types of fresh-baked bread
[Photo Credit: Sam Perez/DV8 Kitchen] DV8 Kitchen's fresh-baked bread, Lexington, KY

Many people come to DV8 Kitchen to support a great cause, and end up staying for the food.

Cinnamon bun with nuts on top
[Photo Credit: Sam Perez/DV8 Kitchen] House-made cinnamon bun at DV8 Kitchne