Yannick Benjamin appears to be the first and only wheelchair sommelier in the world. It took him ten years from the date of a terrible car accident to finally fulfill his dream of returning to a restaurant floor, a feat that required enormous perseverance through endless obstacles along the way. “Once you are in a wheelchair, all the little things you take for granted become major hurdles” he recalls in our recent interview.
Consider this, for instance: “I remember one time I had a date with a girl–I was already 20 minutes late because the elevator in my building was broken. When I finally got out, one of my tires went flat. I had to go have it changed at the local bike shop, and then, once I finally arrived at the restaurant, I discovered three steps that I couldn’t get my wheelchair up. It can get really frustrating.” Benjamin reports that only 10 to 15 percent of people with disabilities go out to eat and have active social lives. “All it takes is a few times to get rejected and get discouraged and just decide to stay home.”
Fortunately for Benjamin, he worked through the difficult times and found a home as a sommelier at the University Club. Read my entire story of his incredible journey in this week’s Village Voice.