CLEARWATER BEACH, FLA.—One of the most recent additions to the Sheraton Sand Key Resort culinary staff is 22-year-old prep cook, Jenna Wieneke. Wieneke, almost completely blind following a life-threatening motorcycle accident, was not sure she would ever be able to work again, especially not in a kitchen. But Sheraton Sand Key Resort’s award-winning Executive Chef, Andrew Basch has a secret ingredient for joint success.
Since Wieneke connected with Hands On Education Services and Executive Chef Andrew Basch, her life has been forever impacted. “Jenna is one of the most positive people I have ever met, and our entire culinary team loves the energy she brings to the kitchen. She helps us all put life in perspective,” said Basch.
Founded in 1998, Hands On Education helps young adults with hands-on training and prepares them for permanent employment. “Many times, people with disabilities are better workers in terms of productivity and speed, but more importantly they appreciate that you gave them the opportunity,” explained Hands On Education Program Director, John Ficca.
Basch is paying it forward and making a significant impact in the community with his partnership with the state-funded hospitality training program for adults with disabilities. And by the way, Basch graduated from the Hands On Education program in 2004, and his experience with the program kickstarted an incredibly successful career. Basch currently oversees all culinary operations and four on-site restaurants and bars at Sheraton Sand Key Resort, including Rusty’s Bistro, an eight-time consecutive Golden Spoon Awards Winner by Florida Trend Magazine.
Since becoming the Executive Chef in 2019, Basch has made it a priority to give back to the program that helped launch his career and has brought in three students from the Hands On Education program to work as a part of his culinary team.