The Cookery is a Christian non-profit that focuses on bettering the Nashville area by giving schooling and jobs to the homeless while bringing quality food and coffee to its customers.
Its mission goes deeper than just making coffee, rather, its goal is to give people a second chance at life.
Behind the scenes is a culinary school led by Brett Swayn, the executive director, who teaches homeless and previously struggling men how to be professional chefs.
“They say the opposite of addiction is not sobriety - it’s connection. We provide that; we’re building these connections,” Sarah Guchas, the general manager, said.
The dark wood and noise of food being prepared creates a peaceful atmosphere for studying, getting lunch, or chatting with friends.
Ellie Fontana, Belmont junior, has been a regular at The Cookery for over a year now, and explains how the consistency of customer service and its mission keep bringing her back.
“They have always been really, really nice, and tell you about events that the cafe is putting on,” Fontana said.
Swayn himself was homeless in Nashville, but when he found Christianity and stability, he did not leave the homeless forever.
“I saw such miracles amongst the poor - crazy miracles - and fear got replaced by love, and I decided I wanted to live amongst the poor for the rest of my life,” Swayn said.
Swayn has continued to do just that by teaching homeless men to cook while giving them housing and a family to grow with.
“These guys learn architecture of food, they learn the quality of food, and they learn creativity of food, as well as we take them through a Servsafe management level food safety program,” Swayn said.
This also means the food coming out of the kitchen has the same quality of a professional grade restaurant, yet for prices that are comparable to other coffee shops.
The Cookery is a coffee shop by necessity, but the real heart lies in investing in each person who walks in the door, be it a guest or employee.
The Cookery food also focuses on taking out toxicity from foods people eat every day, working on creating longevity foods that’ll keep people healthy.
“I try to eat a lot of organic foods,” Fontana said, “And it does provide a better option for you.”
Leaving The Cookery, you don’t just take a coffee with you.
You might also take a prayer request from the prayer wall or a happy feeling from petting the shop’s dog, Aslan.
“It’s a culinary school, it’s a homeless ministry,” Swayn said. “I come to look at it more like it’s a life restoration program. Good food doing good.”
This article was written by Maya Burney