Chef W Rieth might have been out of the restaurant business—the only business he had known since age 12—by now if not for a newfound love.

“The special-needs community brought my passion back for food,” Rieth said on the patio of his restaurant, Not Your Typical Deli, where he has found a way to combine the two interests. “Really, it’s a beautiful thing to teach with. You know, I love food, but I hated the restaurant business. ... There’s nothing great about it, even if you own your restaurant.”

But "Chef W," as he is universally known, has since found a way to combine his two passions, making NYT Deli as much a highly recognized deli as a job-training site for persons with special needs. About 60%-70% of the staff at any time has developmental challenges—most frequently, high-functioning people on the autism spectrum—but they are integrated with other workers.

“If it’s all special-needs [people], it really doesn’t do any good for them,” he said. “Yes, it’s a safe space for them. It is a cool thing, but if you want to survive in, for lack of better words, typical society, you’re going to have to learn how to work with typical people. Typical people are going to have to learn to work with you. That’s just the way it goes.”

The award-winning food is grounded in Rieth’s background from his native Cleveland, including heaping portions of recipes that trace back to Rieth’s grandparents.

Before opening NYT Deli, Rieth had been drifting away from restaurants and had been working doing food demonstrations and later running a commissary kitchen.

He began giving cooking lessons from the commissary to students with autism—a subject he had become fascinated with. At the urging of his partners, Pam and Chuck DePalma, and with his wife, chef Vanessa Rieth, as a collaborator, Chef W opened the doors to the deli with its additional mission in 2016.

“The first year was horrible,” he said. “But it was worth every minute of it. ... The reason we were doing what we were doing drove me to push through.”

Not Your Typical Deli

1166 S. Gilbert Road, Ste. 101, Gilbert


Hours: Tue.-Wed. 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Thu.-Sat. 11 a.m-8 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.-2 p.m., closed Mon.

NYT Culinary Academy

Chef W Rieth has a backlog stack of about 300 applications to work at the deli. Instead of expanding the deli, he opened Not Your Typical Culinary Academy in August to teach special-needs students. Here is a look at the academy.

  • 10 students

  • 16 weeks of instruction

  • two instructors

  • four-course meal preparation for final

1430 W. Warner Road, Ste. 144, Gilbert