Miles McLarney, 23, loves Greek food. He is quick to correct if someone mispronounces the word "gyro," and his dream is to someday be a chef who makes his own dishes. So his job at the Mad Greek Deli in southwest Portland is not just work for Miles: it's a great job match and a potential place to start his career.
Miles McLarney (left) works at the Mad Greek Deli, a second-generation family business. Owner Pantelis "Pondo" Kosmas said Miles is the perfect match for his business.
After graduating from the Centennial Transition Center, Miles applied for services at the Washington County Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) office. Miles went to Dirske Counseling & Consulting for a targeted vocational assessment. Although he has some unpaid internship experience, Miles had never had a paid job before. He knew he wanted to work somewhere close to his home in Hillsboro, and wanted to do something that reflected his Greek heritage.
"Miles mentioned to me that he loved eating at The Mad Greek Deli, and that he was proud of his heritage," said Allison Faucher, job developer with Dirkse. "He told me he wanted to start off as a dishwasher and learn that job."
Allison met with Pantelis "Pondo" Kosmas, the owner of both Portland locations of the Mad Greek Deli. Even though he did not have a position open for a dishwasher, Pondo said he was open to doing an assessment. After a three-week assessment period, Pondo offered Miles a job in September 2014.
"Allison told me it was Miles' dream to work here at the Mad Greek," Pondo said. "I wanted him to have his own job, to be able to do things on his own, get more confidence, and grow in his life."
Pondo has a family member who experiences a developmental disability. Pondo bonded quickly with Miles, who worked to earn the trust that his employer had placed in him.
Miles currently works three days a week, and he said he loves everything about his job. "I love working here," he said. "I'm Greek by adoption and I love my heritage. I love the Greek food."
Miles McLarney places Greek Fries in preparation for cooking.
Miles said he was hired as a dishwasher and buses tables, but as he becomes more comfortable with his job, Pondo has been open to letting Miles take on more duties. Miles recently got his food handler's license and now makes the restaurant's popular "Greek fries."
"My goal is to learn to make more Greek dishes," Miles said. "I love food and I would love to learn more about making this kind of food."
Pondo said he couldn't be happier with Miles as an employee.
"For me, Miles was the perfect match," he said. "He was a great fit for our restaurant and for our culture."
During a busy lunchtime rush, some of Miles' coworkers joke with him about having his picture taken.
"You look so good Miles," his coworker Alex jokes as he hands Miles a tub of dishes. Miles turns red and says back, "Alex, you're making me blush!"
Pondo said Miles' ability to keep his entire team at ease has benefitted the business.
"One of the benefits for my business is that Miles has such a great personality," Pondo said. "He doesn't get as stressed like some of the others when we're busy. With his personality, he helps keep everyone relaxed during stressful times."
Miles said he doesn't have any current plans other than to continue in his current path. He has found a welcoming work environment and he feels like a part of the "Mad Greek" family.
"I like all the people I work with, which isn't the case everywhere you know," he said. "I like it here and as I get more experience, I am looking forward to learning to do more."
View a slideshow of Miles at work