West Chester >> Derran Smith of Coatesville has spent most of his adult life in and out of prison. But now, with the help of a local interfaith organization, he is turning his life around.
Smith’s love of cooking has turned into a sustainable job in a restaurant industry continually in need of trained and qualified chefs.
Smith will be the first graduate of a newly launched nonprofit culinary training program called Trinity Restaurant Training. For his final exam Sunday, July 15, he will present a five-course meal for an invitation-only Chef’s Table of local dignitaries and guests inside the historic St. Andrew’s Room at Church of the Holy Trinity. West Chester Mayor Dianne Herrin will be among the guests, and will present a citation of achievement, as will the office of state Rep. Carolyn Comitta, D-156.
“This local program shows how powerful community partnerships can be,” said Herrin. “When Chef Joe’s culinary skills and commitment to helping others combine with the ACT in Faith program’s resources and the support of one of our newest and hottest local restaurants, Andiario, the outcome is pure success. This is a model for social justice on the local level.”
QVC on-air guest Chef Joseph McAllister will also be there serving as Smith’s sous-chef for the event. As Smith’s trainer and mentor, Chef Joe has volunteered more than 150 hours to prepare Smith for certification and train him in the professional skills offered by culinary schools and vetted by local restaurants. Also in attendance: the nonprofits that have teamed up to support Smith, as well as his new employer, restaurant Andiario in West Chester.
Smith was released from prison in October and found it difficult to find a sustainable job. He contacted ACT in Faith of Greater West Chester, an interfaith organization that helps un- and under-employed residents, find jobs and living support. ACT in Faith soon realized Smith was an ideal candidate for the newly created Trinity Restaurant Training program being launched by Parish Hall Kitchen, its parent organization.
Over the next eight weeks, Smith received 80 hours of paid culinary training under the tutelage of Parish Hall Kitchen’s Chef Joseph McAllister. ACT in Faith provided a chef’s uniform and shoes, knife set, ServSafe Managers certification, as well as the same housing/basic needs support that it provides to all of its service recipients. In addition, ACT in Faith facilitated his job placement at Restaurant Andiario in West Chester. Smith has also been hired by Parish Hall Kitchen as the Kitchen Assistant and will help train/mentor future trainees as well as work for Parish Hall Kitchen’s catering service, Trinity Community Catering.
With the help of donations from the public, Parish Hall Kitchen and ACT in Faith hope to expand the programs, such as Trinity Restaurant Training, that have led to Smith’s success. Their collaboration will help find sustainable jobs throughout the local food service industry, which continually needs dependable, qualified workers.
The event starts at 4:30 p.m. at the Church of the Holy Trinity on South High Street in West Chester. On the menu: lobster bisque, pan-roasted duck breast with olives; rosemary-rubbed filet mignon with compound butter and baby vegetables; salad of baby arugula with selection of cheeses and homemade ice cream.
ACT in Faith of Greater West Chester is an interfaith organization that seeks to build a community that empowers the un- and under-employed to stabilize their households and build toward self-sustainability.