top of page

Cooking Up Success

Updated: May 15, 2019

When Sandra’s family relocated to San Diego from Los Angeles in 2015, she dreamed of being more independent and finding employment. Sandra, who was born deaf, never imagined her dreams would come true at one of San Diego’s premier hotels.

Sandra Smiling in Kitchen

When an opportunity to participate in the Hands On/Hyatt Hospitality Training Program was presented to Sandra by Toward Maximum Independence (TMI), a nonprofit with services for individuals with developmental disabilities and the deaf and hard of hearing, she was elated. In partnership with the Department of Rehabilitation and Hands on Education, which offers a unique vocational training program for persons with disabilities who are interested in a career in the hospitality industry, they were able to make Sandra’s dream come true. With TMI’s guidance and support, Sandra enrolled in the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel’s two week Culinary Training Program. A chef was very impressed with her kitchen skills. So impressed in fact that he recommended Sandra to work at the Hyatt’s Forty Below employee restaurant in downtown San Diego, where she now works three to four days a week. Sandra is so well liked that more than one of the Hyatt chefs are now learning sign language to communicate with her. They also give her the honor of wearing a chef hat.

Sandra never knew what her hidden talents were until she was given the opportunity to pursue a career in cooking. She is now taking additional culinary classes and dreams of being a chef. Sandra has achieved the independence she desired and deserved. To learn more about TMI’s program for the deaf and hard of hearing or to donate to help make this program possible, please visit (this article first appeared in Giving Back Magazine March 2017)


An estimated 1 in 6 people are born with a developmental disability. Just like you they are born with hopes, dreams and the drive to contribute to society. Since 1981 Toward Maximum Independence (TMI) has transformed thousands of lives by providing assistance to children and adults with developmental disabilities, giving them the ability to realize their hopes and dreams.

bottom of page