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A simple mistake in the kitchen has uplifted the life of a caring veteran like yeast does for bread.
It had been a little over three decades since Stefan DeArno had been to his hometown of Charleston, South Carolina—but in 2017, his parents’ declining health compelled him to move back to the city.
At 56, the US Coast Guard vet didn’t have money for an apartment, and his parents lived in a tiny house, so he agreed to move into a homeless shelter.
Luckily, a veteran social worker managed to arrange a spot for him at One80 Place, a unique shelter that offers job training programs to its residents.
During his stay at the shelter, DeArno enrolled in their culinary training program. He had always loved to cook, and had spent many childhood days watching his mother and grandmother in the kitchen.
To offer their program trainees some some job experience, the shelter partnered with a local food and wine festival. Besides volunteering, DeArno was encouraged to try and rub elbows with some of the chefs at the event.
It was there that he met Roland Feldman, the owner of the Smoke BBQ restaurant, who was drawn to DeArno’s cheerful attitude and charisma. The chef even took to calling him “Reverend” because of his tidy black and white outfits.
He offered the charming veteran a job—and one day last November, the rookie made a lucky mistake that would change his life forever.
Instead of adding buttermilk to a batch of cornbread, he accidentally used heavy cream. DeArno was afraid it would get him fired, but Feldman waved off the mistake and told him to pop the batter into the oven anyway. When it was finished baking, the cornbread was more moist, fluffy, and golden than usual.
DeArno passed out the cornbread to the restaurant staffers and they were all stunned to discover that his altered version of a classic recipe was so delicious.
Feldman was so impressed by DeArno’s creation, he offered to go into business him. Today, they are the co-owners of Reverend Cornbread Co.
As a result of the small-venture food startup, DeArno now has a steady flow of income and a place of his own, but he has not forgot the place that gave him hope. Even while caring for his parents, and the new business, he returns to One80 Place to volunteer as a tutor—and he uses his new food truck to hand out hot meals to the homeless.
“Without hope you don’t have anything,” he told TODAY. “One80 place gave me hope and an avenue, because dealing with what I had to with my parents, to do something that I really love, which is cooking, it was a relief, ya know.
“To see people get satisfaction from something that I’ve created is one of the best feelings ever … I swell with pride just to see the smile on my mother’s face. And it was a great feeling, a great feeling.”
(WATCH the interview below) – Photo by Reverend Cornbread Co.
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