Melody Stein grew up in restaurants.

Not only did her parents own and operate a Chinese eatery in San Francisco, but the family — all of them foodies — also constantly went out to eat. Stein still remembers the excitement of sampling Japanese, Vietnamese and French food for the first time. There was only one thing she wanted to do when she reached college age: attend the California Culinary Academy. Then, she wanted to open her own restaurant.

That’s when her deafness almost defeated her dreams.

“[The Academy] called my mom and said we can’t accept her application because she’s deaf,” Stein, 45, signed to The Washington Post via an interpreter in a recent interview. “What if they were in the kitchen trying to yell, ‘Out of the way!’ with hot soup? They viewed me as a liability."