On the side of a busy 12 South near campus lies a restaurant in a small cement building called The Cookery. It is a non-profit restaurant, culinary school and church all in one.
The Cookery opened its doors to the public September of this year and is located at 1827 12th Ave. S. The restaurant serves coffee, breakfast, lunch and dinner but at the same time serves a greater purpose.
“I was called to Nashville, I didn’t know anything about Nashville but I came in 2002, and what wasn’t given was I was about to be homeless,” said Brett Swayn, founder and owner of The Cookery. Swayn is originally from Australia but resided in Texas until he moved to Nashville.
In the midst of his homelessness, Swayn got offered a job at Flemings Prime Steakhouse while serving food at a community service event and eventually worked his way up to become sous chef. Before this job, Swayn had no previous culinary experience. Swayn worked at Flemings for more than four years until he started working on his next project, The Cookery.
After working there he felt called to minister. Since he left the restaurant, The Cookery has been a work in progress.
As well as being a restaurant, The Cookery serves as a culinary school to the homeless. The training is a four-month program plus a one-month transition period to prepare the students to enter into the food industry.
The students sign up for the programs and are sponsored through Lambscroft Ministries. Once they graduate the students can have previous experience when applying for jobs in the food industry.
“I have worked here for a little over four-months. I am in the culinary school and I have about another month to go,” said student James Jones.
Jones found out about the program from Swayn while he was homeless and staying at the Lambscroft shelter.
The students have offsite housing at Lambscroft Ministries and are provided transportation to and from the restaurant.
Members of Lambscroft Ministries provide most of the funding for this program, but anyone is welcome to sponsor and donate.
“The program is about restoration and hope. It has never been about business first hand. We also bring in teachings on debt management, health care and dental too,” said Swayn.
The Cookery staff welcomes volunteers into their restaurant as well.
“I needed volunteer hours for social entrepreneurship and they wanted us to do a local non-profit,” said Belmont University student Ryan McDonald.
“I drove past The Cookery because it was on my way to Belmont University and they welcomed me. Brett said they needed all the help they can get.”
The volunteer opportunities provide hands-on experience. McDonald waitresses, makes coffee and does marketing for The Cookery.
“They are so open and transparent with their customers and they were like that with me as well. Most of the places I wanted to volunteer at were very hard to get in touch,” said McDonald.
In the back of the restaurant there is a small separate room filled with chairs. The Cookery is also a church for the students in the culinary school. Swayn leads the church service every Sunday. Although this church is not publicized, the services are welcome to the public. This offers another sense of community to the students.
The Cookery serves a variety of food. It has salads, sandwiches, burgers and other side items. Once a month The Cookery has a steak night. The price would be considered “cheap eats”.
The Cookery is open Tuesday through Saturday from 8:30 a.m. – 9:00 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 2 p.m.
“My favorite thing to cook is the one that you enjoy the most,” said Swayn. He said there was no favorite dish to make. Swayn is the happiest when he can make someone his or her favorite meal.