The Division of Rehabilitation Services - Illinois
Daryl (DeDi) Omerizi
Daryl (DeDi) Omerizi speaks openly about her love of cooking which was developed at a very young age. If you speak with De Di, she might tell you about cooking many different dishes with her mother in their kitchen as a child. And while listening to her, it would not be hard to acquire a true excitement about food. International cuisine is now DeDi’s favorite food. She says that the herbs and spices in international foods are so potent that the need for western salt and pepper is diminished.
When DeDi speaks about her vocation as a chef and caterer, it is with a zeal and anticipation, which quickly becomes infectious. However, as an adult chef, she has a no-nonsense approach about the dietary needs of the customers that she serves. Ms. Omerizi, the owner/ operator of her own catering service, has a contagious smile that can light a room and confidence to match. But, that was not always the case. DeDi talks briefly about a life of poverty, domestic abuse, and mental illness. “I don’t like to focus on the negative things I have gone through. Because right now, life is good.” Watching her work a crowd as she hands out her business cards, one would never guess her past was laden with volatile relationships.
Referred to the Division of Rehabilitation Services by her doctors, DeDi said she just asked the doctors to find a way to help her. The lifestyle that she had been living had caused her to suffer from mental illness. DeDi sees cooking as therapy. And her quest for therapy has led her to the television studios where last year she taped a session on PBS titled “ Super Chefs Live” with celebrity chefs Martin Yan of Yan Can Cook, Dean Zapanelli and Michelle Bernstein. The show aired on Channel 11, Chicago on June 12, 2004. DeDi also has catered events for the Division of Rehabilitation Services. She was the Caterer for the DRS ICRE-Wood Job Fair on June 18, 2004.
DeDi’s counselor, Senior Rehabilitation Counselor, Madesa Dickerson, is full of praise for DeDi. She states that Ms. Omerizi has changed her life drastically. “She has gone from a woman with low self-esteem to an extrovert, who loves herself and her child. You can see all this in how she relishes in her new found independence. She takes on challenges willingly and gives it her best to succeed. She claims her cooking passion is something none can take away.”
Ms. Dickerson is happy that The Division of Rehabilitation Services helped Ms. Omerizi by funding her books for culinary school, and assisting in her referral to the Women’s Self-Employment Project. The project helps customers clarify their business goals and develop a business plan. But, she sees the greatest contribution as the encouraging words that the staff gave DeDi in tough times. Madesa is also grateful that DRS allowed DeDi to market her skills. She sees the catering business as just another extension of the great heights to which DeDi will aspire.