Service Industry Helps Tennessee Chef Become More Than A Statistic

Tennessee Chef Donald Reed often talks about his background growing up in foster care and the time he spent behind bars as a way to teach others how the service industry can help them land on their feet, like it did for him.
From his first job in fast food to his current job as a chef at Buffalo Wild Wings, the restaurant industry has been part of Donald’s life. Cooking is even where he turned while serving time in prison, and where he found a safe landing as he worked to re-enter the workforce.
In sharing his story, Donald speaks to the problem of the prison revolving door and the importance of finding a job to help break that cycle. Through a friend, Donald was hired by a local Pizza Hut and was so appreciative of the opportunity that he traveled two hours by bus each way for six months in order to gain the skills he needed to move forward. It was then that his life began to transform. “Statistically, a black kid from a foster home with a felony, I shouldn’t be where I am today,” Donald says of his experience.
Donald also recognized the impact that the interconnected role between non-profits and the service industry has in helping turn things around. Through a mentor, Donald was connected to the Oasis Center, a local non-profit program dedicated to helping troubled youth find their way. Upon sharing his interest in the culinary arts, he was introduced to the Randy Rayburn School of Culinary Arts at Nashville State Community College where he earned an associate degree, learning the skills needed to advance in the industry and explore other dreams.
Today, Donald praises the flexibility his current job allows so he can dedicate time to raising his two kids while his wife teaches full time while also providing constant support as he grows his catering business, Chef Donald Reed’s Catering. He remains closely connected with those who provided the support that helped him get where he is today, and wants to pay it forward by starting a non-profit organization that can help connect people with jobs as they re-enter the workforce.
“Through that industry and the people associated with it in Nashville, I was able to beat the odds. That’s the power of food, and why I love it so much,” said Donald.