Chef Trains Inmates to Work in Professional Kitchens to Keep Them From Returning to Jail

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A chef with a love for pizza making is using his talents at a jail in Illinois, where he teaches inmates cooking skills.

Bruno Abate, who runs Recipe for Change at the Cook County Jail, wants to make sure his staff in the prison’s kitchen don’t return to jail and he's doing that through pizza.

“We have people here, the majority of their life experience is on the street, so they never challenge themselves … to make pizza or to do anything, and now through the pizza they understand, ‘I can do it.’” Abate told CBS News.

According to statistics, 70% of people who are released from prison return again, but according to Sheriff Tom Dart, who oversees Recipe for Change, none of the participants in the program have returned to the jail.

“I have no delusions. There is evil in this world, and there are evil people here,” Dart told the news outlet. “But the majority are people who have made mistakes who came from an area with very little opportunities.”

One of the program’s former inmate participants, Sergio Rodriguez, was serving a five-year drug sentence when he worked in the kitchen and has gone on to work at Abate’s restaurant in the Chicago area. 

“I used to make hundreds in a day or in a week, thousands easily. Here you have to wait for that paycheck. It’s hard,” Rodriguez said. 

Abate hopes to continue to mentor people like Rodriguez. 

“I have a purpose, not a purpose to buy three Rolex, big house, two Ferrari … my goal is to change something in the prison system,” Abate said.

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