Former gang member now using chef skills to help at-risk Winnipeg youth
A Winnipeg chef is using his new catering business to equip at-risk youth with culinary skills in hopes of keeping them away from the lure of gang life.
Robert Rodericks, who is known as Chef Bear and whose business is called the Ghetto Chef, said he's made it his mission to help kids and show them there's more to life than hustling on city streets.
A former gang member, Rodericks said he worked hard to change his ways after the birth of his daughter and has since turned his life around. He'd wanted to be a chef since he was 14, he said.
I tell them that there's better things you can do with your life than wearing baggy pants and bandanas.- Chef Robert Rodericks
"A lot of people used to view me as a nightmare on the streets and I prefer that the kids know me now as the chef instead of what I used to be," he told CBC in an interview at a friend's home. There, he was showing two teens how to prepare a stuffed chicken.
"My objective is to reach as many kids as I can and show them that if I can change so can they," he said.
The 32-year-old says he's already seeing success with five teens he's been mentoring.
"We're basically just trying to take kids out of gang violence, there's one kid here who is with me right now, and she was very plagued by gang violence until I came around," Rodericks said.
"We were successfully able to take the gangs away from her; she's sitting here now and now a member of the team."
The kids knew his past life and Rodericks said he hopes it shows them change is possible. "I tell them that there's better things you can do with your life than wearing baggy pants and bandanas, walking around causing chaos," he said.
'It made my life go down the drain'
Tegan Henderson, 17, met Rodericks last month and recently left a gang. She said she had many struggles growing up and she's staying away from drugs.
When she was a little girl, Henderson said she had a passion for cooking and wanted to work in a restaurant. She'll be helping Rodericks as a server and hopes to go on to finish school and become a cosmetologist.
Keaton Paul said he's known Rodericks for years but just started working with him last week.
In that short time, the 17-year-old said he's now hopeful to finish high school in the fall.
While he's never been in a gang, Paul said he's had his own struggles.
Now, Paul said he wants to try and keep other teens out of trouble.
With files from the CBC's Nelly Gonzalez