NPR

Laser Pointers And Hand Signals: A Deaf Chef In The Kitchen

David Uzzell is deaf and works as a chef at a Washington, D.C., restaurant. Being deaf makes communication in the kitchen challenging. But Uzzell's colleagues have come up with some workarounds.
David Uzzell at work in the kitchen at Marcel's. Uzzell has a written list of daily tasks from chef and owner Robert Wiedmaier at his station, and his ever-present notepad and pencil on the shelf above serves as communication tools for more specific instructions. Source: Kristen Hartke for NPR

Amid the hustle and bustle of the kitchen at Marcel's, a fine dining restaurant in Washington, D.C., one member of the staff is immune to the noise. It's David Uzzell, the 28-year-old saucier responsible for such delicacies as pan-seared foie gras or mushroom mornay sauce.

Uzzell is a deaf chef — a rarity in the vast majority of restaurant kitchens. When chef and owner Robert Wiedmaier needs to get Uzzell's attention while expediting during dinner service, he pokes him in the shoulder.

"David gets poked a lot," says Wiedmaier. "There might be a dent in his shoulder from my finger by now."

It's not all poking, according to Uzzell. "We've

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