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ROCKY POINT, New York -- Since she was just 14 years old, Long Island's Madison Bender has worked in the restaurant industry.

A mere four years later, the now 18-year-old holds the impressive title of sous-chef - the second in command to the top chef - at the Maui Chop House in Rocky Point.

"I never thought I was going to get here because I waitressed, I bussed, I hosted," Bender said.

"I never saw myself ... getting the responsibility being like a sous-chef in the back of a kitchen."

As she learned from her various restaurant jobs, she attended Eastern Suffolk BOCES Edward J. Milliken Technical Center and studied culinary arts.

"I found my passion for cooking at a really young age," Bender said. "My teachers really inspired me."

In June 2020, she graduated and started to work her way to the top of the kitchen.

John Louis, the head chef and owner of the Maui Chop House, found Bender when she came in for an interview. She was recommended by his restaurant manager, who was one of her teachers at Rocky Point High School.

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"I have two young daughters, so I'm a big proponent of empowering young females and just young professionals in general," Louis said. "Working with her watching her grow, watching her mature, and watching her hit it out of the park, it's great. It's going very well."

Bender also juggles the responsibilities of being a full-time student at Suffolk County Community College, where she is studying education. Bender hopes to follow in her boss' footsteps and own her very own restaurant one day.

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"I just encourage all owners and chefs to really open their minds and listen to the younger generation," Louis said. "They have great ideas, they have great energy, and you find the right one and you can hit a home run."


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Woman speaks out after injury during stampede as brazen armed robbery at Beverly Hills restaurant sends diners scrambling

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (KABC) -- As the city of Beverly Hills ramps up security in the wake of a brazen armed robbery at one of its famed restaurants, a second victim injured in the terrifying incident is speaking out about what she witnessed.

Armed, private security guards have been deployed in Beverly Hills in response to the incident Thursday at Il Pastaio in the 400 block of North Canon Drive, near Santa Monica Boulevard.

Officers were called about 2:10 p.m. on a report of a robbery with gunfire, and arrived to find a woman who had been shot. Police said the woman was not the intended target.

Woman shot in leg during robbery at Beverly Hills restaurant
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A woman was shot in the leg during a robbery at a Beverly Hills restaurant on Thursday, according to police and witnesses.

"The female was at the location with two other people when three male suspects demanded property from another patron,'' according to a Beverly Hills Police Department statement. "One of the suspects shot the female and the three suspects fled the location on foot.''

The second victim sustained multiple injuries, including broken bones, after being trampled by the robbers as they fled while frightened diners ran for their lives as gunshots rang out. Surveillance video captured a handful of patrons scattering, with some taking shelter inside the restaurant.

"I thought I was shot. Someone completely knocked me down from behind," said the woman who did not want to be identified.

She told Eyewitness News she suffer a broken arm and shoulder as well as a large laceration on her chin.

A rose gold Richard Mille RM 11-03 Flyback Chronograph watch, estimated to be worth $500,000 and was stolen from jeweler Shay Belhassen, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Belhassen has offered a $50,000 reward for information that leads to the capture of the suspects and return of the watch.

He said he was angered because the robbery was the latest of a series of similar crimes in the area in recent weeks and said he believes police aren't doing enough about them.
Belhassen told The Times one of the perpetrators "ran and pulled a gun from his jacket pocket, grabbed me from the back of my chair, choking me and putting a gun to my head.''

Belhassen said he grabbed the gun and fought the robber to the ground.

RELATED: $50,000 reward offered by jeweler whose $500,000 watch was stolen in shooting at Beverly Hills restaurant
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Armed, private security guards will be deployed in Beverly Hills in response to a robbery and shooting at an upscale restaurant, Police Chief Dominick Rivetti said.

People out for the evening in Beverly Hills on Saturday said they were happy to see the increased police presence.

"Makes me feel a little bit better, but it's kinda crazy they did it in broad daylight, which means they're not afraid," said Shawna Ireland of Rowland Heights.

A search for the suspects continues.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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