Living the Dream & Never Giving Up


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My story of addiction goes back to age 10, growing up in a small community. Both my father and grandmother were alcoholics and after my parents divorce I found comfort in food, eating sugar-laced junk that ballooned my weight to 200 pounds – I became a very unhappy kid and turned to substances to try and numb my sadness.

It started with alcohol before I was even a teenager

It started with alcohol before I was even a teenager… then I was smoking marijuana at age 12. My lifestyle spiraled downward from there. I started selling marijuana in junior high at age 14 to make money to support my habit. My addictions continued onward and downward with both cocaine and crack. I got kicked out of Grade 11 at age 18, and by then was a full-blown addict. Even my first culinary job as a pizzeria’s line cook was just a hideout to sell drugs.

One thing led to another and soon I was in jail with a $7,000 fine for stealing a truck. Then I was busted in 2004 for selling dope. I was very well-known in the city I was living in, which is not a big town, as the go-to guy for drugs. The surprising thing is that I didn’t get busted earlier. I then moved to try and make a change but my demons followed me… I found a job selling everything from kitchenware to computers door-to-door for three years.  I was actually pretty good at it, and received an outstanding achievement award as top salesman.  I was making money, seemed to be doing well but when I moved to another town, I got into crack and then heroin. I started stealing from anyone, anywhere, even on the street. Finally, the company said I’m going nowhere if I don’t clean myself up. The message didn’t quite sink in… I was nailed by police for driving under suspension and sunk deeper into addiction, tried committing suicide twice, I didn’t want to live anymore and felt the world would be better without me. I didn’t succeed and turned myself into the police and ended up in jail.

I wasn’t going anywhere, I had no friends, I pushed my family to the point they couldn’t trust me or put up with my crap anymore.  It wasn’t until I was 26 and incarcerated that I started to wonder what I wanted to do with my life. After being released I moved back to my hometown and the Ontario Works program and the Community Learning Centre put me through a four-month cooking program at a local college. A light went off – I really enjoyed cooking – and I landed a job in the kitchen at the local hotel. I also connected with a rehab counsellor who knew of a place an Addiction Recovery program run by the Salvation Army.  After completing the cooking program, I moved where the program was and checked myself into treatment and have been clean since Feb. 11, 2008. I remember the date precisely; it was a major moment in my life… Seven, sober months later, I enrolled in a cook’s apprenticeship program, where I found my passion and determination to continue living my life free of drugs and alcohol.

Each of my recipes are an instrument of recovery; a personal expression of my journey.

Each of my recipes are an instrument of recovery; a personal expression of my journey. I picked up the name Chef Recovery halfway through the program. What I do is take words that mean something during my recovery and match them with appropriate food. I started working in the hotels once I got through college, which gave me a true understanding of what food & cooking really is.

At five years clean and sober I moved out West to advance being a Chef. I landed myself a great opportunity as an Executive Chef, which opened the doors to a ton of amazing things. I have had the privilege to do catering events for Wayne Gretzky, William Shatner, Mark Messier, Theo Fleury, Daryl Sittler, Bobby Hall, Alice Copper, Leonardo Dicaprio, Neil Young, Daryl Hanna and the list goes on.  Now over seven and a half years clean and sober I have moved back home where I found a new position as an Executive Chef. I now own my own catering company called Chef Recovery Catering, along with launching a food line called Fresh Water Cuisine, which is all things Fresh Water Fish. My wife and I have just had our first baby.

Family, food, and sharing hope is what gives me great pride in my success as an Executive Chef but always remembering that I have to celebrate each day, one day at a time.


Never give up…  Keep living the dream!

Chef Recovery – Jay

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