27 Feb Kitchen Comeback
Just over a year ago, Neil Stephan “The Reverend” DeArmon was a Coast Guard veteran without a home or a job, living on the street. Today, thanks to culinary training at One80 Place and a chance encounter at Charleston Wine + Food, he’s sous chef at Smoke BBQ and the face and co-owner of a burgeoning cornbread company.
It all began at One80 Place, the downtown shelter working to end homelessness in Charleston. Its culinary training program, a five-week course in which students gain the skills and experience needed to secure a job in the food-and-beverage industry, launched in early 2017. Last year, Charleston Wine + Food (CW+F) began partnering with One80 Place, matching students from the program with local chefs participating in the festival. At “Toasted,” the final event of 2017, Roland Feldman, chef-owner of Smoke BBQ, was paired up with DeArmon. As his trainee donned a chef’s coat and got to work, Feldman saw something special in him. “We were cooking next to the band, and this man’s spirit lit up. He was swaying and clapping along like something out of a Whoopi Goldberg movie,” Feldman laughs. “I said to him, ‘Sir, I’m calling you ‘The Reverend,’ and I want you to come work for me.’ He about burst into tears.”