Nashville chef creates culinary camp for kids in high-risk communities

Published: Jul. 14, 2022 at 6:40 PM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - A Nashville professional chef makes a difference, one dish at a time. He’s teaching at-risk youth how to cook professionally.

Cutting up vegetables and stirring roux are just some of the things these kids are learning this summer.

“What I like about cooking is that it brings people together, and you can change people’s lives when cooking,” said Thonyell Hughes, who attends the camp.

Changing lives is exactly what chef sterling wright is doing--through his “Cooking the wright” four-week culinary program during July.

“Cooking just inspires me a lot because sometimes when I’m feeling sad or mad, it just makes me happier,” said Queen Washington, a nine-year-old attending the camp.

He and the pastor of the Claiborne Family of Faith Worship Center in Nashville came up with the idea to host a free camp for kids in their community. Wright says God placed it in his heart to start this camp.

“They know they can talk. It’s not just cooking. We’re counselors; we’re mentors. We are here for them with genuine love and showing their frustrations and whatever their pain is to take it out in cooking, present it on a plate and make it beautiful,” said Sterling.

During Thursday’s cooking session, the kids made chicken and sausage gumbo.

Wright has competed on a national television cooking show. He was raised in JC Napier public housing. He says he’s giving back to show these kids what seems impossible can be done.

“Majority of our kids come from one of the highest rated crime areas in Nashville. And we’re in the heart of it serving our community doing it genuinely, free, and out of love,” said Wright.

They learn culinary techniques like the proper way to cut and the steps to make gourmet meals.

“Last night they made salmon, skin on, not cooked well...they’ve learned how to cook their own homemade meatballs,” said Wright.

Each night’s homework assignment is to use the food given to them at the camp to prepare dinner for their families.

“No free lunch, no grocery stores, so what does that mean? Around here, if you don’t get no money, it means all means necessary to feed my family. So now these kids get to take home food to feed their whole family without being hungry,” said Wright.

Wright is sharing his skills to make a difference in these children’s lives one dish at a time.

The camp is fully funded through donations and help from the mayor’s office.

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