Cooking for a second chance

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - They all come from different backgrounds and have different stories, but they all have one thing in common: they're cooking for a second chance at life, hoping it brings them down a new path.

Gap Ministries in Tucson just began it's third go at a ten week intensive program that helps at-risk adults learn both life and culinary skills. Currently, 13 people are enrolled. 

On the menu Wednesday morning, how to slice, dice, and julienne; three different ways to cut and prepare food for cooking. Executive Chef John Hohn tells his students, in order to be a successful chef, they have to do the little things correctly in the kitchen. The bigger picture? They have to do the little things correctly in life in order to stay on track.

"There's a lot of broken people out there," he said. "People who are living in halfway houses, have to deal with probation officers, have to go take drug tests, have to continue to go to court."

Many of his students at the Gap Kitchen Culinary School are fresh out of prison, have struggled with substance-abuse, anger management problems, and now are in desperate need of help. The last thing many of them want to do is fall back into old habits and lifestyles that left them in trouble.

One of his students is Regina Radford. She's had her ups and downs in life, and now hopes this will help her mend family relationships.

"I just made a bad decision. I got involved in drugs," Radford said. "I got in a bind, and I figured I could make some quick money so I took a little trip, but it wasn't the trip I anticipated at the end."

Radford served 8 months, and was recently released at the beginning of the month. Like many others that are currently in the program and have completed the program, she lives in a half-way home.

She's attended other programs designed to help people, but feels this one is different. It gives her a purpose, it's more personal, and it allows the intimate group to learn and grow together.

"I think it's a learning experience for all of us," she said. "But we can all relate in one way or another, to whatever the other person is going through. And just to give each other that boost up is pretty cool."

While they're boosting each other up, they also are providing a boost for those in the community that they don't know, as well. The meals they prepare and cook end up feeding other people in need throughout town.

"We want to end the cycle of poverty," Hohn said. "And the way to do that is by education, and by job placement, and a changed life."

As for Radford, she is ready for a change, one that includes a goal and a dream: to open her own food truck, combining her newfound culinary and life skills in a new endeavor.

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