Whole Life Magazine

October / November 2016

Issue link: https://digital.copcomm.com/i/732294

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Page 23 of 43

Having grown up around the Westside, Derek recalls, "I spent most of my time in Venice being a skater and surfer, getting in fi ghts. I was a wayward kid. I grew up on these streets and a lot of my early memories were on Rose Ave. is was where it all went down," where he knew plenty of people struggling with addiction and homelessness. Fortunately, in his late 20s, Derek discovered his passion for cooking in the Trade-Tech culinary arts program then earned his chops working with acclaimed chefs such as Sherry Yard, Ludo Lefebvre, Chris Blobaum, Wayne Elias, and Jennie Cook. A er several years of cheffi ng into the wee hours, becom- ing a father of three girls was the real game-changer. When he found the day job teaching in a culinary school at St. Joseph Center, his immediate sense was, "It was meant to be. It sparked some- thing inside me. at's where I wanted to be. It represented so many aspects of my past." We all know the proverb: "Give a man a fi sh and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fi sh and you feed him for a lifetime." In Derek's teaching kitchen, those words have never been more powerfully apropos. When stu- dents with "multiple barriers to employment" learn how to cook an exceptional fi sh, they not only can feed thou- sands, they can attain their own sustainable career and self-worth for a lifetime. Derek confesses, "When I started, it was heartbreaking. I lost my students to relapse and to prison. You form a bond with them and they're gone. It's really emotional. You give them all the same opportunity but you can't make anyone do it." e good news though is, their success rate is 70 percent, an impressive average for any em- ployment program. Jorge Rivas from Jeff erson Park is one of many success stories. Once he got excited about cooking under Derek's mentorship, Ri- vas worked with Puck at Spago, became a chef at Patina, then Executive Chef for years at the popular Blue Plate in Santa Monica. Back on Rose Ave, Derek laughs, "Everyday is a chal- lenge. We are running out of everything so we change the menu based on what is donated from day to day. We are constantly getting new donors and losing them." About 24 wholelifetimes.com

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