12 South restaurant offers food with a cause - WSMV News 4

12 South restaurant offers food with a cause

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The restaurants of 12 South are almost always packed with regulars and tourists who read about them online.

In a nondescript building less than a mile down the street, a restaurant is not only serving up good food, but changing lives.

"There's some people who just stumble into here and have no idea," said Brett Swayn, owner of The Cookery. "They're just so impressed with the food, which is really, really important."

A year ago, Swayn, a former Fleming's chef, partnered with some friends to open the doors of The Cookery. The restaurant now has a cult following, partly because of the food, but also because of what's going on in the kitchen.

"Our staff is pretty much the homeless guys that we've been pouring into," Swayn said. "They've learned a trade, and we're getting incredible reviews about the food. The school will be bringing in five to seven homeless guys every five to seven months."

Wiley Walker is among the workers at The Cookery. Just 16 months ago, he was living in his van with no hope of a future.

"You kind of feel like you'll never be able to get out of the hole," Walker said. "It's hard to find a job because you're living on the streets. Even if you get a job, it's hard to stay clean and things like that."

In addition to providing his proteges with a job and a skill, Swayn gives them food and housing until they are ready to launch their new lives.

"I want these guys to see that they can do something beautiful with hands that perhaps used to destroy things, and they get so much affirmation from the people around them," Swayn said.

Customers come for the food and return because of the restaurant's mission.

"I think feeding them and getting them shelter is wonderful, but what about the next stage?" customer Monica Oakley said. "If there's not any room, so this is giving them training to continue their life."

The Cookery is just one of the homeless projects being spearheaded by a group called Lambscroft Ministries.

To learn more about The Cookery or Lambscroft Ministries, click here.

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