May 10, 2004, marked a turning point in Joey Love's life. The date stands frozen in time, etched on Love's graduation diploma from Life's Kitchen, and in his mind as the day that opened a new door in Love's life.
"I just have to give credit to the instructors. They just pushed us really hard," Love said of his time at Life's Kitchen, a place many Boiseans know for a nourishing lunch and a place Love honors for nourishing his soul.
Ten years after the push by Life's Kitchen, a nonprofit dedicated to transforming the lives of at-risk youth through culinary training and life skills coaching, Love can look back and see a pre-Life's Kitchen life that looks unrecognizable to the life he leads today. Love now wears the title of sous chef at Kahootz Steak and Alehouse in Meridian--a job Love earned after working his way up the ladder at kitchens across the Treasure Valley.
That graduation date stands between a juvenile delinquent and a doting dad, and took Love from an apathetic, lost kid to a driven, passionate chef.
May 10 also stands as a day that reminds Love of his blessings and the importance of paying it forward. To say thanks on this 10-year milestone, Love plans to cook up a meal of gratitude for a Life's Kitchen fundraiser.
What was your life like before you enrolled at Life's Kitchen?
I didn't really have any goals. I really didn't want to graduate or do anything. I was held back in school twice. I was getting into a lot of trouble. I was breaking into people's cars. I really didn't have a care in the world. I put my mom through a lot. And she helped out a lot. She's the whole reason I went to Life's Kitchen.
How did your mom help you out?
She basically had nothing left to do for me. She tried to make me realize that I was almost 18, and if I didn't stop what I was doing I was going to go to jail. So she went and saw a counselor and the counselor told her about Life's Kitchen. My mom knew that I liked to cook. I liked to make her dinner and that was one of the only times that we would bond.
It sounds like you had the seeds of your culinary future in the kitchen with your mother.
Yeah. It was a bonding time--because, other than that, I was not really there. I just didn't care about anything. I was always in court. I was on probation from when I was 13, so I wasn't doing very well.
When did things start to change for you?
When I went to Life's Kitchen.
It was the first time that I ever had it click in my head that I could do something that I enjoyed. And the people made me realize that not all learning was like the learning in high school, where it was very difficult for me. They taught us a lot. And they taught us things like how to buy car insurance and how to live on my own.
What was the most important lesson you learned from Life's Kitchen?
We can grow up. It put something in my head to make me realize that the world was ahead of me. Life was just beginning. I did get into drugs when I was younger and I abused them. Life's Kitchen saved me. It really did. It worked. It helped me become an adult.
How did Life's Kitchen help you become the adult you are today?
It's such a great program, I referred one of our dishwashers there. It's free and you can get college credit. Before Life's Kitchen, I was doing a lot of bad things. I was born with fetal alcohol syndrome, so I was drinking a lot. I felt there was nothing out there for me. They made me realize that family is so important and having a career that you love makes life that much better.