Red Rose Culinary Art Academy: Henry Howard Starts New Program to Retrain SF's Homeless And Criminals

Henry Howard wants to give San Francisco's ex-convicts and homeless people a new chance at life by teaching them how to cook.

In June, Howard opened the Red Rose Culinary Art Academy to teach basic kitchen skills to members of those populations, many of whom are unemployed and seeking work.

The 16-week curriculum will teach 30 students a wide range of disciplines like knife skills, spices, cooking methods and sauces. The program is designed to help the students transition back into society by helping them find jobs in the food service industry after graduation.

"I want to give people sills they can use for life," Howard told the San Francisco Examiner.

Howard is no stranger to second chances. Federal agents arrested him for pushing narcotics while he was working at Boise State University as a chef more than a decade ago. Howard spent almost five years in prison before he was released in 2006.

"I went in, did my time, and never looked back," Howard told Local Addition.

In 2007, Howard returned to San Francisco and began cooking for the New Strangers Home Bapstist Church, the Food Bank and the Family Resource Center meetings. At a community barbecue he was approached by Pastor Erris Edgerly of Brothers For Change, who introduced the idea of teaching cooking classes.

The program comes in light of California's Assembly Bill 109 and 117, which may allow a large number of prisoners convicted for less severe crimes to be released next summer due to overcrowded facilities. Howard is working with probation and parole officers to recruit recently released prisoners right out of the gate.

Howard hopes the cost of training and employing each Red Rose Academy graduate will be much lower than housing a repeat prisoner. He estimates that he can train thirty people for $15,000, a fraction of the $47,000 necessary to take care of a single prisoner in California every year.