Food TV fixture Curtis Stone is among a group of LA chefs who are working with a non-profit organization called Chrysalis that helps find restaurant jobs for people who were formerly homeless, incarcerated, or addicted to drugs. Approximately a dozen of the employees at Stone’s high-end LA restaurants Gwen and Maude were hired through this program, including Byron Taylor, a general manager, and Darrell Stevenson, a back-of-house manager. Stone tells the Hollywood Reporter: "You have to throw the whole notion of a background check away: I know you’ve been homeless. Now you may have gone to prison. That’s all right with me."
Restaurant kitchens can be lifelines for people with troubled pasts, but formerly incarcerated individuals, in particular, can have a hard time breaking into the industry because of their records. Groups like Chrysalis, Kitchens for Good in San Diego, and DC Central Kitchen are helping kickstart careers by connecting people who are looking for a fresh start with operators like Stone and his brother/business partner Luke, who want to give them opportunities to work and grow within the kitchen. Stone says his relationship with Chrysalis has helped him find people who have become staff fixtures. “Our experience has been a really positive one where they’ve committed to be loyal, long-standing employees,” Curtis remarks.
Meanwhile, Thomas Keller set up an internship program through a local non-profit called Homeboy Industries, which is similar to Chrysalis, and downtown LA favorite Clifton’s Cafeteria also found some of its employees from a like-minded group called Midnight Mission. Chrysalis CEO Mark Loranger tells the Hollywood Reporter: “Curtis and a handful of other businesses that we work with have recognized the value of working with programs like ours. We just need to have more employers looking at it from that perspective.”
For a closer look at the struggles that former inmates have in the restaurant industry, and the ways in which people are helping them establish new careers, take a look at Eater’s profile of DC Central Kitchen.
• Star Chef Curtis Stone Hires the Formerly Homeless and Incarcerated at His Hollywood Restaurant [Hollywood Reporter]
• Restaurants Can Be a Lifeline for the Formerly Incarcerated — and Vice Versa [E]
• The Culinary Education of Class 98 [E]