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San Francisco nonprofit Farming Hope helps formerly incarcerated people become chefs

<i></i><br/>People who have been incarcerated often have trouble finding job opportunities
Lawrence, Nakia

People who have been incarcerated often have trouble finding job opportunities

By Web Staff

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    SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — People who have been incarcerated often have trouble finding job opportunities, but one San Francisco nonprofit is helping them find careers in the culinary industry.

Growing up, Devon Jordan had a lot on his plate. But these days, he’s able to deal with whatever life dishes out.

“This is probably the furthest thing from what I envisioned my life to be,” he said.

After being in out of prison for various offenses for a total of 16 years, Jordan suddenly found himself on the outside with little to no prospects.

“Nobody was willing to give me a shot because of my past,” he said.

But then, he stumbled on a place called Farming Hope and went from serving time to servings meals.

“They gave me a shot here. They accepted me into the culinary apprenticeship, and I did 12 weeks here and that kind of what reignited my passion,” he said.

Today, he’s a chef, in charge of creating a three-course meal that easily rivals some of the Bay Area’s most popular hotspots.

On this particular night in late December, his menu included a three-cheese mac and cheese topped with garlic breadcrumbs and a little garnish of scallions, a garlic crusted roast beef with a vegetable gravy and roasted vegetables, and an olive oil cake with homemade whipped cream and topped with fresh pomegranate.

But even though he works at what looks like any other restaurant, it’s not. Farming Hope is a nonprofit training program that helps people who’ve either been incarcerated, homeless, or are survivors of violent crimes.

“When you’re overcoming obstacles in your life and trying to move on to the next chapter and reenter the workforce you may be the last person called back for a job interview or never called back,” said Kerry Rodgers, Farming Hope’s co-executive director.

That’s not the only thing that sets Farming Hope aside. The meals Jordan serves are free. Every single one of his customers is food insecure. The only payment accepted in this place is a thank you.

The establishment isn’t generally open to the public. Customers are referred to the restaurant through social service organizations. But those wanting to contribute can book the restaurant for private events.

Rebecca Nichols said she came with her great grandson to enjoy a little holiday cheer.

“My God,” she said. “It’s an elegant dinner with tablecloths and not plastic silverware and people who are so nice.”

For Jordan, it was a reminder that sometimes all it takes to change a life is a helping hand, and a delicious meal with a side of redemption.

“I get to do what I love for a passion, but I’m also helping people,” he said.

Interested parties who want to help can’t just show up at Farming Hope for dinner, but they do take reservations for special events and parties.

They also take donations. All funds collected go to training more people with disadvantaged backgrounds get a leg up in the hospitality industry. More information on how to help is available at the Farming Hope website.

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