Phillip started at Inspiration Kitchens in November of 2011. He came to Inspiration Corporation from Stateville prison, and had been in and out of prison 6 times since graduating from Lakeview High School nearly 30 years ago.  A lifelong resident of Uptown, Phillip has struggled with drugs and alcohol for many years, but has been clean and sober for “four years, four months and 2 days”.

Phillip applied to the Inspiration Kitchens training program, but failed his first attempt at the math test. He came right back to the organization, got tutoring from one of our volunteers, and passed the test on his second try. He immediately took to the courses, and was thrilled that his chef-trainer was teaching not only basic culinary skills, but made an emphasis on French-style cooking, which he views as an asset in looking for work.

He graduated with flying colors, and stuck around for another 5-6 weeks at Inspiration Kitchens – Uptown, cooking breakfast as a volunteer, and learning everything he could about setting up and executing the meal.  After a brief stint doing temporary work with Quench on the West Side, he got a job downtown as a line cook at Northwestern University’s Law School.

Since then, he’s achieved full-time status at Northwestern, working in the kitchen 40 hours per week, and loving every minute of it. He’s already one of the more experienced cooks on staff there, and receives a good wage and excellent benefits.  Phillip is thrilled with his current position. When not cooking for work, he likes to create dishes in his own Spanish/South African fusion style.

Even though Phillip used just a few of Inspiration Corporation’s services, he finds the staff to be continuously valuable to him. A case manager was able to steer him in the right direction regarding where to open a checking account. Another staff member was able to help him find an apartment building in Edgewater, where he could pay his own rent, as he was already making more than what would qualify him for our Housing Program. His chef trainers keep in touch, whether to renew sanitation certification or just “check-in” and see how he’s doing.

Inspiration Corporation finds Phillip’s story to be invaluable as well, as he comes back to speak to other graduating classes from Inspiration Kitchens.

“They set you up to be successful. They not only gave me skills, but they never let me be afraid of my ex-felon status when I was looking for work.”