Chef Stories of Hope: Meet Darnell

Darnell Brown has dreamed of being a chef for as long as he can remember. He comes from a big family – he is one of eight kids – and meals were a time that everyone always came together. After high school, he enrolled in culinary school but had to withdraw when his mother passed away. He set his dreams aside and started a landscaping business with some of his brothers to make ends meet.

When he learned about Second Harvest’s Culinary Training Program he knew this was an opportunity to finish what he started years before.

During his time in the Darden Foundation Community Kitchen, Darnell learned how to juggle what he calls “knife skills and life skills,” or what you may call work/life balance. The biggest lesson he learned is to be patient and pursue what makes you happy.

“I waited a long time for an opportunity like this. I’m going to make the most of it,” Darnell said.

At the end of the 16-week program, Darnell interned with Kolaiah’s Catering, a local catering and personal chef business owned by fellow Second Harvest graduate Kenny Neal. With his experience as an entrepreneur, Darnell wanted to shadow someone who had launched their own business.

“Having the chance to mentor Darnell was a way for me to pay it forward,” Kenny said. “If I could take what I learned at Second Harvest and help someone else, to me, that’s what it’s all about.”

Darnell shadowed Kenny on a week-long trip to Georgia where they cooked for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily for a client and his family of 10. Darnell was able to practice his prep work, mis en place and put all of his skills to the test. He also learned how to make crepes from scratch, a food he’d never tried before.

“It was a like a final exam,” he recalled upon return. “It was one of the greatest experiences of my life.”

Today Darnell works for Chef Kenny at Kolaiah’s Catering.

“If you love to cook and need a second chance, definitely come to Second Harvest,” Darnell said.

To learn more about the Culinary Training Program, or apply for the next class, visit

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