New Restaurant Helps Homeless Men Start Over - | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

New Restaurant Helps Homeless Men Start Over

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by Aundrea Cline-Thomas

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A new restaurant on 12th South has begun serving up eclectic flavors. At The Cookery, every recipe includes a pinch of hope.

"I was sleeping in my van out at Walmart," said restaurant employee Wiley Walker. "I (had) just come from Clarksville."

Some of the employees were part of a faith-based program for homeless men.

"The idea is to take men who are very, very serious about wanting to get off the streets, rededicate their life, reengineer their life, and restore their life," said Brett Swayn, Cookery founder and head chef. 

He said the hard work happens in the kitchen, where the men learn new skills to start over.

"I went to treatment about five or six times, but the last time I said that's it," employee James Jones said. "I'm just sick and tired of being sick and tired."

Swayn knows all about second chances. In 2002, he was homeless and staying at the Nashville Rescue Mission when he met a volunteer who helped change the course of his life.

"Someone from Fleming's came down on community service and they worked with me for about ten minutes and said here's the card," said Swayn. "You look like a decent person to work with."

With no culinary experience, Swayn started working at Fleming's restaurant as a day cook and eventually became a sous chef.

"I was ready to make a change. I didn't know what to do or where to go," Walker explained.

That's why despite their current circumstances Chef Swayn said he sees potential in each man.

"Everyone is worth it," he said. "There is something unique in them that deserves a chance to blossom and deserves to be nourished."

Day after day he said the men were being nourished one meal at a time.

"It's building me up in a way where I can know that I did something day in and day out that I'm proud of," said Jones.

The Cookery's program for homeless men lasts five months. With more support they hope to provide housing, legal and financial assistance, along with counseling to the participants. They're looking forward to celebrating an official grand opening in the coming weeks.


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