Local chef teaches Cook County Jail inmates to cook healthy food

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Local chef Bruno Abate has been spending five days a week for the past four years in the basement of the Cook County Jail, working to improve the lives of young men with a program called "Recipe for Change."

"You know without him there is no program, Bruno is amazing. It was just this incredible connection there because he'll tell you himself this is his mission in life," said Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart.

"God is a big part of this and it just come from my heart it makes me a better person. I become a better person every day, I'm a better person every day," said Abate.

The three-month program is designed to foster dignity and opportunity while teaching lessons in healthy food, nutrition and the art of quality cooking.

Pizza deliveries to fellow inmates and donations fund the "Recipe for Change" program. Every skill being taught can translate into a job upon release.

"I feel like this program will help the community, help the inmates become a citizen again, have a normal job. So this is protecting our community our kids it makes a better world," said Abate.

Thousands submit letters to take part in "Recipe for Change," but only 20 to 30 get the chance to take part at a time.

"I'm very grateful, I know it's a lot of inmates that want to participate in this program. I'm just grateful that Chef Bruno chose me," said Tyler, a detainee.

"Now I have a different track of mind since I've been in this program. Now I'm thinking about my family and what matters the most when I get out of here," said KJ, a detainee.

Now, the participants are making plans for a brighter future.

"After this I want to open my restaurant soon," said Tyler. "It'll be a mixture between Italian and urban food. It would give everybody a wide variety of things they've never tasted before. Something different."

"Recipe for Change" is just the beginning. Chef Bruno hopes to launch a food truck outside of the jail and Sheriff Dart hopes to expand the program so inmates have the chance to earn food handling certificates, giving them a better chance at finding a job.
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