From cocaine addict to culinary artist: Free course changes chef - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

From cocaine addict to culinary artist: Free course changes chef's life

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Chef Jackson Hodges with WAVE 3 News Anchor Dawne Gee Chef Jackson Hodges with WAVE 3 News Anchor Dawne Gee
As Chef and Head Instructor of the Salvation Army's Culinary Arts Program, Jackson Hodges loves the challenge and the finished product he gets when he's in the kitchen. As Chef and Head Instructor of the Salvation Army's Culinary Arts Program, Jackson Hodges loves the challenge and the finished product he gets when he's in the kitchen.

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - WAVE3 News and NBC are celebrating the spirit of the Olympic Games and itsathletes. The games are a tribute to the greatness of the human spirit, but youdon't have to wait every four years for the Olympics before you see a stunningdisplay of triumph over adversity. There is an Olympic creed. Itreads, "The most important thing in the Olympic games is not to win but to takepart.  Just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but thestruggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have foughtwell." 

Local ChefJackson Hodges loves the spirit of the Olympic Games and he loves life. Heloves his life. 

"I loveall foods," Hodges said with a hearty laugh.

Food is the mostimportant thing in Hodges life right now. As Chef and Head Instructor ofthe Salvation Army's Culinary Arts Program, Jackson Hodges loves the challengeand the finished product he gets when he's in the kitchen.

Laughing andsmiling again he proclaimed, "I could always cook. It's just a lot ofthings I didn't know the names of techniques but to me it was like a wholeworld had opened up."

Hodges becamepart of the Salvation Army's culinary arts program as a client. One worldopened up as another closed.

"I was anaddict! My drug of choice was cocaine," Hodges explained.

Cocaine isnicknamed the caviar of street drugs. It is a high priced way of gettinghigh.

"I startedsmoking marijuana at the age of nine," Hodges said without skipping a beat."One day a friend of mine said look what I got. We all tried it. Someof us didn't mess with it anymore. Some of us kept on messing with it," hesaid shaking his head.

Out of thatgroup of experimental drug users, he continued to use. Cocaine was Jackson'sdrug of choice for 10 years. It played a major role in the choices hemade. For 10 years he was homeless and estranged from his family.

Hodges explainedwith a firm tone, "At first it's fun but then it becomes a job. Every dayyou wake up you're thinking about getting high. When you're going to bedyou're thinking about that next hit."

Hodges stressedthat's your job until you hit rock bottom. For Hodges he hit it with arealistic thud after seeing another addict he himself had judged years ago.

"I said I'llnever be like that guy and one dang gone one day I was that guy," he said almoststill in disbelief. He said almost as if he were teaching a lesson, "Whenyou look down on somebody who has a problem and you don't know about it, you'vegot these misconceptions about it. You yourself can end up in his shoes"

Hodges is notalone. Kentucky exceeds the national average of drug induced deathsaccording to the Salvation Army.

Hodges stressesto everyone ,"Addiction don't care how much money you got, what side of thetracks you was raised on, how big your house is. Addiction doesn't care."

Hodges did findpeople who cared.

Now out of hiscocaine fog he can say, "My family would have helped me, had my back, whatever.I wanted the drug."

He returned tohis family and for the first time entered a treatment program through the VAfor vets. VA for vets help veterans and transition military service memberbuild a successful life by providing whatever assistance or tools they need toform that life.

"Once I startedgetting clean, doors opened for me", Hodges said as if he were exhaling andbreathing in new life itself.

One door thatopened was to the Salvation Army's Culinary Arts Training Program. It's afree, intensive 10 week course that teaches basic culinary skills needed tofind an entry level position in the food and hospitality industry. Hodges tookthe class and has now taken over the class.

Hodges took theclass and has now taken over.

With anotherhearty laugh he explained, "Well now I teach the program. I teach the culinarytraining program. Anybody can do this. I'm not special. Anybody cando this. Anybody can get clean. Anybody can get their lives back ontrack if that's what they really, really want to do. Every now and then I saywow, wow. Look where I've come from and look where I am. I am these people thatcome to this class. I was them. I still am them. I'm just in abetter place today."

The SalvationArmy's Culinary Program works hard each day with Jackson Hodges leading theway. The city is invited to Chefs For Hope, a gala featuring a six course mealand very excited students in the culinary program, along with six well knownlocal chefs at their side. Those chefs are Dean Corbett of Corbett's andJacks, Gregory Hyde of The Village Anchor, Dallas McGarity of The Marketplace, JoshHilyard of Big Spring Country Club, Daniel Stage of Louisville Country Club andShawn Ward of Jack Fry's.

The dinner willbe February 22 at the Big Spring Country Club. The multi course dinner beginsat 6:30 p.m. Tickets arelimited. To support Kentucky's next top chefs call (502) 400-3739.

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Chef Jackson Recipes

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Artichoke Stuffed Chicken BreastJack's Brisket