When I was a guest on the AutismRadio podcast I knew that Paul Cimins had a heart for people with autism. I knew he understood what I was going through and it was clear that he really cared. I believe that you have to walk in someone else’s shoes to fully understand their journey. As I learned more about Paul I discovered that he had not only walked my journey, he had run the marathon many times to help millions around the world. His story is more than just inspiring, it is life-changing. Grab a Kleenex and prepare to be touched by an angel.
Paul, you are a man of many talents to include being a talented chef. Can you please share more about your culinary school experiences?
Well, I started when I was in high school back in 1984. I developed an interest in cooking when I starting taking some foods classes. After taking food classes for two years I decided that I wanted to go to culinary school.
However, I was told by my guidance consular when I was in 10th grade (or should I say “lack of guidance counselor”) that I did not have the grades to go to the Elite Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY.
Well, I was lucky enough to go to a community college following high school. I took a 6 month foodservice training program at Passaic County Community College where I met my mentor, Chef William Doring who was a CIA graduate (Culinary Institute of America). He helped me get into culinary school where I graduated with top grades.
I had to get more restaurant experience. In order to qualify for CIA, they want at least 1 year of restaurant experience. At that time, I really only had food or short order cook experience. So, I got my first job at the Sandalwood Restaurant where I met Chef Skinner. He taught me a lot and I worked hard for him. He then wrote me a wonderful letter that helped me get into CIA. Within 6 months of working for him, I got accepted into the school of my dreams, The Culinary Institute of America.
I got there and really excelled above any dreams; working with some of the best chefs in the world. I worked for the fabulous Marco Island Marriot Resort for my externship. I received an A and had received a perfect attendance award, which not many people get.
My first job out of culinary school was as an assistant chef Instructor. My former Instructor at Passaic Community College had been following my career, being alumni of the same school. He hired me to assist him. Most chefs don’t become Instructors until the end of their careers.
It was surreal because I had been a student of this school only 3 years before! Teaching – to me – spoke volumes in my abilities as a chef. I kept moving on from there; wanting more and eventually I had my own successful foodservice company that I operated for over 18 years!
When the doors closed on December 16th, 2011, everything changed. Could you please elaborate on this?
Well, I was chef, owner and operator of Culinary Delicacies Foodservice and, at one point, had three locations that were all booming. Unfortunately, I was forced to close two locations due to tenants leaving the building. But, I had my main Café in Bloomfield on Broad Street.
I went through a building transition when my new Café was being built on the first floor as I was on the second floor for 15 Years of the Office Complex. We were considered family by many at the Complex, as I took care of many people’s dietary needs as well as always caring for people’s well being.
Then, I had a bad car accident in September of 2009. That is when things took a turn for the worse. I had to have major shoulder surgery on my right arm.
We had a new landlord take over the Office Complex shortly after that and that’s when things really started to change for us. I was assured by building management that I had nothing to worry about and that we would get a three year extension without a question.
Not only did we not receive the extension; they terminated my lease three months early and I was actually thrown out the night I was cleaning out my office and moving stuff out. After 18 years of service, it really hurt to be treated like that.
This was more than just a job; it was my life! I had a wife and two kids to support; a new home that had me in debt and now I had no idea where my next turn would be. But – being me – I kept a positive attitude. I founded and had been operating AutismRadio for several years. I hosted my show, Hope Saves The Day, so I really put more time and effort into it. Looking back, it still hurt but I believe that I am here today with a higher purpose in life to help others – full time.
You shared a lovely story with me about your priest saying, “You have a great voice for radio.” Can you remember how this made you feel?
It made me feel amazing. When someone that you look up to gives a compliment, it empowers you to believe. I think that the key to life is to have someone truly believe in you and speak words of faith in you, no matter who they are.
Sometimes in life we have a hard time doing things we want to do and we don’t do them simply because we have fear of what people might think. Even parents can cause a child to be held back when they tell their kids that college is not for them like in the movie Rudy when his dad say, “Rutegers don’t go to college.” Not only did Rudy go to college; but he graduated from Notre Dame and played football when he was 5 foot nothing. His Friend Pete always told him to go for his dreams and he did just that.
When someone speaks words to you, it helps you believe in yourself. At first, I didn’t grasp what the priest said about me doing radio because I didn’t have the confidence to speak publicly at that time. But, little did I know, years later I would be doing my own radio show and speaking in front of millions of people around the world! I look back on the moment and know that his believing in me caused me to start to believe in myself. AutismRadio now has over 14 million subscribed listeners and it all started with his faith in me.
You founded AutismRadio as a Podcast with the goal of being a “Big hub of connecting everyone.” What is it like to have 14 million connected to you now?
It’s truly amazing! I would have never in a million years thought it would grow this large and continue to grow. Reaching so many people in the world is a true blessing from God. I feel it is my mission to bring people together.
Looking back on my life, I was always bringing people together – whether it was putting together a hockey team and keeping them together to eventually win the championship in an adult league or just introducing someone to someone I knew to help them get a better job. I love to bring people together to work with each other for the greater good in life.
In what ways has autism helped you to realize gifts (yours and / or another’s)?
Well, I first used my skills as a chef to do the GFCF Diet for my family and make it taste good and look good to get kids to eat it, and then I started to teach others. We found that this helped with a lot of issues. So that would be the first thing I started to do.
I Just think, to be honest, I was always different than most people. I have more patience and a kindness and love for others. I love people and have a heart for people with any issues they are struggling with. Autism has really made me love all the parents and kids out there in world that I have had a chance to connect with.
So many moms and dads are struggling to cope with this and I want to let them know they are not alone. In my heart I have always known that one day I would do something special and make an impact but I never thought it would or could be something this big though – to be honest. Now my mission is to be sure that no one is left behind until the day I am gone from this earth.
I’m shedding tears over your passion, Paul. This is SO incredibly amazing! Before your son Jonathan was diagnosed with autism, how did you picture autism?
I honestly knew nothing about autism. The only thing I knew at the time was from the movie Rain man with Dustin Hoffman. That was the only thing I knew about it and I was told it was a permanent thing… that there was no hope, no cure and not much of anything we could do for my son. I refused to accept that there was no hope for my son or for autism!
Your new song, “Hope Saves the Day for Autism” is having a profound effect on everyone who hears it. Do you have plans to write more songs?
I wrote the song 5 years ago. I was not even sure I would ever finish it so I put it out there for others to hear the words that were so painful when I wrote them. They came from my heart on how I felt about my son. I began to change some of the words to turn it into a more positive song as my son has really helped to guide me to my purpose in life.
I had no plans to do another song but you asking this question is inspiring me to write another one actually. I am not a musician; I just like to write poems and happened to turn this one into a special song. I have to thank my brother Brian for pushing me to finish it as I was dragging my feet. Now that is done, it’s amazing. And even if no one heard it but me, I would be happy with it because I finished it.
I dream one day to have a famous musician play it live in a concert and really take it to the next level. I have actually just started working on second song since you asked me this question.
The words of this song speak to my heart. I know your next song will also! I can’t wait to hear it. What is the #1 tool you would like to give to people who have autism or who are helping others with autism?
I would have to say “Have hope.” I think to give someone strength and have faith to keep pushing forward in life is the greatest gift you can give them. I truly believe if you believe your child will get well, they will. It really helps them a lot to achieve so many more milestones that maybe – at one time – would have never happened. You have to believe and that is the tough part sometimes when things don’t seem to be getting better with your child at that moment. I want parents to know that they are not alone in their journey and that there is always someone here for them. That is why Hope Saves The Day was created.
Is there a lesson (or a person) that made such an impact on you that it changed your life?
I think the lesson came after my surgery on my shoulder when I was sitting at home and couldn’t do much. I was feeling helpless and sad. I had already started the podcast AutismRadio and the website but we were not yet syndicated and I wanted to do more. I realized that I had to give 110% and keep pushing this forward to succeed.
My grandmother and grandfather were big people in my life and they always told me when I was young that I was “special”.
Of course, you don’t believe them when you’re young. But as I grew older I started to really believe that I have a special gift with people. I can feel their pain and I don’t want them to suffer when they truly don’t have too.
Many times my grandparents would remind to get a new perspective on things. I would hear, “Don’t sweat the small stuff” and “Don’t ever care what others think.” I truly believe their words sunk in. Years ago I would have never stood up and spoke in front of thousands of people but now I feel at home doing it. Their impact certainly changed my life.
What do you need help with in order to achieve your goals / dreams?
I truly believe that God will give me all I need to succeed by bringing the right people in my life at the right time to make all of my dreams come true. My goal is to have my song played by a famous musician and to have my own TV show Hope Saves The DayI
I also want to publish my 101 Recipes of Hope cookbook. It would require money and the right connections which I know will happen if it is meant to be. Someone will reach out to me and help me along the way. So, if anyone out there who is reading this would like to help me achieve this goal, I would love to connect with you. Thank Rhonda for taking out the time to do this interview of me.
Paul, this interview and our many talks have been such a blessing to me. I believe that you will have your songs broadcast in many languages. I believe that your cookbook will help millions around the world and I can’t wait to contribute to your TV show, Hope Saves the Day! Paul, your heart and your mission in live is giving SO much to SO many and you’ve only just begun!
Learn more about Paul by clicking on the links below.
Your comments, questions and suggestions are welcomed and appreciated. Ill-willed comments of any kind are not allowed here. Please be kind. The law of attraction is always at work: that which you sow, so shall you grow. Thank you and have an incredibly blessed day!
Rhonda Spellman is an award winning author, professional speaker, autism advocate and coach. A published author at 17, she has since worked in many areas of the writing / publishing / media field. When a form of autism took her son’s voice in 2001 and threatened to take his ability to live a normal life, she began to search for better answers. Rhonda self-published her first children’s book – an EVVY award winner, in 2003, a short two months before her first son was diagnosed with autism. Her second book, based on small emperor penguin who gives children a message, “You don’t have to BE big to DO big things” was picked up by a major publisher in 2008. Rhonda’s third book, “The Journey Home from Autism“, is based on over 7,000 logged hours of research was released on January 1, 2010. It has won a 1st place INDIE Excellence award and an EVVY award. In January, 2013, she published her 10-year-old son’s first book, “Asperger’s Rhymes with Bass Burgers“. Her programs for children and adults, her website and her column “Beyond the Spectrum” are designed to educate and enrich life ~ in all of our many shapes, colors and forms. Her online sites include: AutismWithRhonda.com, Linkedin.com/in/RhondaSpellman, Facebook.com/RhondaSpellman, http://www.youtube.com/artospress, She can be reached at Rhonda@RhondaSpellman.com