Mike H. poses for a portrait at one of the PLNT Burger locations he manages.
On a typical day Mike H. can be found bouncing between the two PLNT Burger stores he manages, leading staff through a busy day while encouraging their growth as cooks.
But life didn’t always look like this for Mike. A DC native who spent some of his teenage years in group homes, Mike successfully earned his diploma and enrolled at Norfolk State in Virginia. Unfortunately, before he completed his degree, he got into legal trouble. a
While incarcerated, Mike took reentry classes to prepare himself for transitioning back into his community.
“One of the instructors told me that if you don’t have a plan, you’re going to fail. I heard how successful people were who came home [and then] went to DC Central Kitchen so I embraced that idea. If other people were that successful, I could follow that,” said Mike.
After graduating from CJT, Spike Mendelson hired Mike as a junior sous-chef at his restaurant, Vim and Victor. Then, as the pandemic left many restaurant workers without a job in March and April 2020, Mendelson gave his former employee a call.
“So then Spike called me and said, ‘I’m opening a PLNT Burger in Navy Yard in DC. Do you wanna come on?’ I was like ‘Sure’; so I came in and took ownership of the store immediately,” he said. Within two months he was promoted to manager and the store has thrived. Today, Mike manages two PLNT Burger locations and imparts some of the knowledge he learned from CJT to his employees, encouraging smiles and learning opportunities.
“For me, everything points to attitude. We can teach you the skills we want you to know but you’ve got to have a positive attitude to keep growing,” said Mike.
In the two years since graduating from CJT, Mike has continued to grow both professionally and personally. He looks forward to finishing renovations on his fixer-upper home and learning more about marketing and sales strategies from his colleagues at PLNT Burger.
Mike H. is one of 2,000 CJT graduates who have used DCCK’s education in knife and life skills to embark on new careers. Just as Mike is now in a position to give back and inspire hope, we hope you will join him expanding opportunities for more of our neighbors.