Mulhouse: in Aurélie Bernard’s restaurant, disability is an asset



I never imagined having a daily life so rich, so beautiful, that it would be so captivating. “ These words are those of a restaurateur, a profession yet so abused today. More than a year and a half after the opening of “Un petit truc en plus” in Mulhouse, Aurélie Bernard, 38, is holding out thanks to the meals delivered and taken away. But if she is so happy, it is because the main thing has not changed: her team. Salima, Juline, Antoine, Tristan, Élise and Maxime, aged 20 to 50, all have Down’s syndrome. ” They are sparkling, full of lightness, teasing. They make you want to not ask questions.

In September 2019, when she launched this restaurant and gave up her position as head of the kitchen at the Mulhouse Rehabilitation Center (CRM) – 800 covers per day, 40 employees – she had little knowledge of this handicap. ” I was especially close to motor impairment. But I had the chance to train autistic people in the kitchen, who then worked in an ordinary environment. In addition, I have always been sensitive to people with Down’s syndrome. I had observed with interest the creation of the restaurant Le Reflet, in Nantes, which employs people with Down’s syndrome. I felt it was my way. I want to show that we are all the same after all. “

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A restaurant, she had already started one in the past. But the real challenge was not to create an adapted or integration company. ” I was absolutely attached to the framework of the ordinary environment, even if we are an association, non-profit », She explains.

“Deal with it, but not instead”

Nothing would have been possible without the CRM buying the premises, without the donations received by the association, and without the support of 25 volunteers. Each department is now well established with four team members (including Aurélie or her colleague, Chloé) and two volunteers, ” there to do with, but not instead “. More easily tired, the team members only provide four services each week, of 4.5 hours. They work 18 hours a week, paid at minimum wage, and receive a supplement for disabled adults.

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They learn very quickly. You just have to take the time to rephrase the requests a lot. Their concentration time has increased enormously. They manage to stay on the same task for 40 or 50 minutes, whereas at the beginning, it was difficult for them to exceed 10 minutes ”, notes Aurélie Bernard, who is delighted to be able to combine her passion and integration, “In a big family atmosphere”. In fact, her own children aged 11 and 14 love to come to the restaurant. “Normal, we come out refreshed!” “, smiles the restaurateur, who is already thinking about opening a second similar restaurant.

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