DC Central Kitchen specializes in second chances—and that’s why many of our culinary students come to us late in their adulthoods, after decades of personal struggle. Relatively few young adults are ready for the professional and emotional rigors of our program, but 24-year-old Piccom Dews defied that trend. In less than a year, Piccom has, in his words, chosen “a path of construction, rather than destruction,” by completing our Culinary Job Training program (CJT) and joining our staff as a full-time employee, where he helps prepare 5,000 meals a day for our city’s most vulnerable residents.
Piccom heard about DC Central Kitchen’s training program while living at Hope Village Halfway House last year. He had already spent the majority of his adult life in and out of prison. His time at the halfway house was a wake-up call, and DC Central Kitchen offered a new way forward.
Piccom’s first days as a student were rocky. DC Central Kitchen’s culinary instructors pushed him hard –knowing he was capable of more than the effort he was putting forward. The sort of change Piccom had hoped to make needed to start internally before it could be seen externally. He stopped pushing back once he realized the CJT staff were only hard on him because they saw his potential, and could not bear to see him throw it away. Piccom finally began to believe in his own promise. “I never felt that much love in my life,” Piccom said of his experience.
“Everyone thinks life is so bad. Life’s not bad, it’s just the circumstances that you are in that are bad. That doesn’t have to mean you have to stay in those circumstances, you can always get yourself out. You just have to be willing to work…I push every single day.”
Piccom graduated and landed a job at DCCK—but he didn’t stop with his own success. Shortly after starting his new job, he recruited his 23 year-old brother, Wallace, to join the next incoming culinary class. Wallace followed his older brother’s example and graduated in August, immediately securing a job at University of Maryland Dining Services. Today, the two brothers live together, pushing each other to stay on track in their new culinary careers and charting a new path for their family.