Through early 2020 we’ve gone through three training cycles and celebrated six people graduating. Several graduates have found employment in the food industry. One, Zakee Cooper, was climbing the corporate ladder at the Cheesecake Factory, listed among Fortune magazine’s 100 Best Places to Work. Others are pursuing alternate careers, including Aaron Johnson, who’s being trained as an electrician.

Our experience suggests that no matter what line of work our graduates engage in, they derive tangible benefits from CookWell training—the discipline required, the culinary and life skills learned, the interaction with folks from different backgrounds, the pride in completing a program… None of our graduates had ever given a speech until the day of their CookWell graduation, and on that day, each one spoke movingly from the heart about what the program meant to them.

CookWell is committed to the idea that people transitioning from incarceration benefit not just from jobs, but also from community support. In addition to mentoring our trainees, working alongside them in the kitchen, and breaking bread together, we stay in touch as they move on to new lives.

Recently, two CookWell board members had lunch with Aaron, his wife Ebony and their adorable three-month-old, Aamir. What a joy to see Aaron transition from life in a homeless shelter to a role as head of household!