Coatesville resident Derran Smith has spent most of his adult life in and out of prison.
Now, his love of cooking has turned into a sustainable job in a restaurant industry often in need of trained and qualified chefs.
Smith is about to be the first graduate of the newly launched Trinity Restaurant Training, a nonprofit culinary training program. For his final exam this Sunday, he will present a five-course meal for an invitation-only Chef’s Table of local dignitaries and guests inside the historic St. Andrews Room at Church of the Holy Trinity in West Chester.
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.
Chef Joseph McAllister, a frequent guest on QVC, will also be there serving as Smith’s sous-chef for the event. As Smith’s trainer and mentor, McAllister has volunteered more than 150 hours to prepare him for certification and train him in the professional skills offered by culinary schools and vetted by local restaurants.
Also in attendance will be 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, for job search 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-plus hours of paid culinary training under the tutelage of 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. It also facilitated his job placement at Restaurant Andiario.
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 routinely needs dependable, qualified workers.