After being homeless, GBC culinary student Myles Chaulk shows that it’s never too late to go back to school
The first time Myles Chaulk worked in a kitchen, it was punishment for a party gone wrong.
Chaulk was 13-years old and staying at his grandparents’ house when he and some friends decided to have a party. He made the food himself, and everyone got sick. When their parents started to ask about what happened, it led to Chaulk’s grandparents’ house, which was clearly partied in.
“My punishment was to spend the rest of the summer working at my family friends’ restaurant,” he said. “I really enjoyed it.”
Chaulk never met his father, and his mother left when he was nearly 16-years old, leaving him homeless and in Toronto’s shelter system. He had to rely on his previous kitchen experience to land jobs and support himself.
“I was abandoned,” he said. “So I had no choice, I had to start to work.”
Of course working in a kitchen was a question of survival for Chaulk. But when he was experiencing homelessness, he explained that working in kitchens was a way to get free food, because you could always eat while working in a restaurant.
For youth experiencing homelessness, there’s a program by Covenant House called Cooking for Life, which trains them for jobs in the culinary industry.
Michael Kim, a job developer at Covenant House, said that youth are drawn to the program because it’s an opportunity to learn important life skills like cooking for yourself and a chance to get professional training.
Kim said he has seen big changes in the participants’ confidence after they have completed the program.
“(They think) ‘I have some income, I have this confidence and self-esteem, maybe I think about going to college or university or get my high school diploma or GED,'”
According to Covenant House’s 2017 report, 70 per cent of participants in the program find jobs or go back to school.
Chaulk, now 29 years old, found housing with the help of Eva’s Place, the shelter he lived in for nearly three years. He has now become a brand ambassador for Eva’s Place and teaches culinary skills to youth in the shelter every Tuesday.
“I don’t have lots of money, if I did I’d give that,” he said. “But I do have skills and I do have the ability to teach and I do have a great story to share.”
For Chaulk, who has over a decade of experience in kitchens, going to George Brown College for a culinary certificate is about adding formal training to his resume and taking the next step in his career.
“(Going to school) has always been something that I’ve wanted to accomplish but I could never afford,” he said. “Having this opportunity (to be) at George Brown and get advice from chefs who have been around for so long—it’s really good for me.”
In addition to his studies, Chaulk is working at Pinnacle Catering as a sous chef. He is also working to become a full-time private chef, because he said that his focus is bringing people together.
“It’s incredible – the power of a meal, the ability of one single meal to bring a family together who hadn’t seen each other in a month,” said Chaulk.
And for folks who are experiencing similar troubles as Chaulk, his message is simple: it takes hard work.
“Dreams don’t come true by mistake. Dreams come true because you work for them and you make them happen. They don’t happen by accident,” he said.