I am not a chef, and I wouldn’t insult anyone who learned the things necessary to proudly make that claim by stating otherwise.
That said, I did evolve into the life of a restaurateur during the late 70’s and the 80’s and the business seemed to be a perfect fit for me – were it not for my obsession with drugs and alcohol which constantly created obstacles in my professional – as well as my personal – life. I recall the need to dip into the office for a quick ‘line’ of coke, and after work it was Bacardi and a drinkable, legal coke. Throughout the day, while working, I would sneak bottles of Michelob into the office and drink them down to take off the ‘edge’ produced by the coke.
The restaurant business didn’t produce the drug and alcohol habit. Indeed – had I not had those habits, I could have taken life more seriously and actually learned a more professional approach to a business I actually loved (and still do).
Those habits, however, went on to almost kill me, literally, as my inability to cope with myself led me to death’s doorstep following a nearly successful suicide attempt in August of 2009. It was turning to God that actually prevented that attempt from being successful, but that is a story for another time. The fact that I lived meant that I could face the monster I had become and 7 months after that attempt I went to federal prison for 4 years.
Upon my release, I moved from the prison in Louisiana to Central Union Mission in Washington, DC where I quickly became a volunteer in the kitchen, which led to a job on the Mission kitchen staff. Today, I am in the final stages of developing a career training program for men served by the Mission. Men who have surrendered to hopelessness due to a lack of education or vocational training, a history of alcohol or drug abuse, growing up in extreme poverty or in a physically or emotionally violent environment, as a result of a lifetime of making poor choices, or of having a criminal history.
The individuals we select become part of a six month “Work, Learn, and Earn” program developed around a retail business featuring a line of baked goods consisting of muffins, scones, and handheld pies that are produced, marketed, and sold by program participants in a retail environment while we work with the business community to secure permanent employment or entrepreneurial opportunities for them.
We believe we can help to eliminate the “Will Work for Food” mentality and replace it with a “Will Work for my Future” mentality that not only sees the potential for a future, but is accompanied by the determination to work for it. No matter what is in a person’s past, we believe each one of God’s children can have a future, and we consider it our obligation to help them, see it, work for it, and realize it.
We believe that by giving an individual the best we can offer of ourselves we can teach him to reach for the best he has within himself.
The name under which we will operate is ‘Mission Muffins’, and we believe that ‘Muffins with a Mission’ can change a person’s life.
This business (the restaurant, or food-service, business), which can be more draining and demanding than any of us could ever adequately describe, can provide us with excuses to dismantle our lives through the use of drugs and alcohol.
But this business can also be used to rebuild lives – even the same lives it helped to dismantle. By focusing on the future, the demands of this industry can actually be a crucial part of providing a future for individuals who thought that a future was for other people.