LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Louisville is no doubt a foodie town. There are lots of great restaurants and lots of talented chefs. One of those chefs let us in early on the big plans he has for one local neighborhood.
Here's something you might not know about Chef Edward Lee.
"I never went to culinary school myself,” said Chef Lee. “I learned because a lot of chefs took a chance on me. And said go wash some dishes and we'll see what you got."
What Chef Lee now has is two successful restaurants in Louisville - 610 Magnolia and Milkwood. He also has a book, a PBS documentary and a third restaurant coming on the East Coast. Chef Lee is also starting a new project that's close to his heart - training people from Smoketown in his restaurants.
"So for kids that do show promise that do want to do this what better way for them to learn about the restaurant industry then to sort of work under my wing," said Chef Lee.
Approximately five young adults from the Smoketown neighborhood will be part of the pilot program. Beyond that there are much bigger dreams for not only the people of Smoketown, but those who love to eat. Imagine a restaurant in Smoketown run by people trained by Chef Lee.
“I think it's transformative,” said Heather Farrer, a project coordinator. “He picked Smoketown for a specific reason. For the opportunity it represents and to be a part of something that will be much bigger than it is today."
YouthBuild Louisville and IDEAS 40203 are teaming up for this project with Chef Lee.
"It's just a synergy,” said Lynn Rippy, executive director of YouthBuild Louisville. “Of the art world and the training world mixed together to prompt us to dream bigger."
"We're teaching them entrepreneurship,” said Theo Edmonds, founder of IDEAS 40203, “and culinary industry is the context for those lessons."
Those are lessons that should taste really good.
"It will change their life completely," said James Hooten.
Hooten knows what having a mentorship can do. He learned about the construction industry from an apprentice program put on by YouthBuild Louisville.
“[I] didn't feel like I had anything to give the world,” said Hooten about when he started in the apprentice program. “Didn't feel like I was smart enough. Just here. Just existing. Wasn't proud of myself."
Now Hooten has his own company with two full time employees. Chef Lee is hoping to cook up similar success stories.