FOX 32 NEWS - Hard to believe that something as simple as making a pizza can change a life. But that's exactly what's happening behind the walls of the Cook County Jail.
It’s all part of a program called 'Recipe for Change' and so far, it's been a recipe for success.
The man behind the program is well-known Chicago Chef Bruno Abate. In addition to running his own restaurant in Wicker Park, abate spends 5 days a week in jail teaching inmates the art of pizza and change.
"The ex-felons are human. They deserve a chance and they deserve to change their life,” Abate said.
And that's one reason abate started his non-profit 'Recipe for Change' three years ago, to give people a second chance.
"They need help, they need help,” Abate said.
And in the Cook County Jail, help comes in the form of pizza. Chef Abate and his team of instructors donate their time to teach inmates how to cook the pies. Those pizzas are then sold to other inmates in the jail. There are six to choose from, all costing 5 to seven dollars.
"Its good pizza that they are paying for. If they weren't ordering it, they would be getting traditional meals that we provide, which is from the from the tax payer,” said Sheriff Tom Dart.
A win for the taxpayer, but an even bigger win for inmates like Sterling, who has dreams of opening his own restaurant.
"I want to start my own restaurant and maybe hire some of these guys to help me out,” Sterling said.
And that's what this is really about, giving inmates the skills needed to land a job once they get out. Many times, ex-cons can't find a good job. Sheriff Dart says the food industry needs people with skills in culinary arts.
"We are trying to match the need with individuals coming out. They don't care if they have criminal backgrounds, that's not their issue,” Dart said.
Like Sterling, Karim also has dreams of running a restaurant.
"Growing up I really didn't have a father figure growing up. But Bruno always talked about change and mistakes. When you fall, there is nothing but up,” Karim said.
And helping those who fall get back up is a mission Chef Abate hopes everyone will get behind.
"All the restaurant in Chicago, Supermarkets, if you need some people, I can teach them for you. Let me know what you need. Here we are,” Abate said.
And soon, you may not have to be an inmate to order the pizza. Sheriff Dart says he's looking to take the pizza program mobile, expanding with a food truck in the near future.