Donnie Simmons is a multi-award winning chief that takes the meaning of keeping your kitchen clean to a whole new level. As head chef at the Charlotte, NC restaurant Zada Jane’s Corner Café, Donnie gives his employees a second chance at life, helping opening a door for someone that might not be open. He calls this #CleanKitchen. It’s a second chance charity that he’s starting with another Charlotte native, Naaman Mims of Minor Press. Through Minor Press, Mims uses t-shirts to help (mostly) recovering addicts to start fresh in life.
It’s almost not surprising to find out that even the restaurant industry is overrun by drugs and alcohol. Yet, this chef took the huge risk of being blackballed in a city by exposing the dirty work. In his kitchen they all wear their shirts proudly.
I got the chance to catch up with Donnie and ask him a few questions about his line of work. An audio interview can be found below.
What’s it like at the place you work?
The place I work now I have created a #cleankitchen which is something as a straight edge guy , I do not believe in pushing my beliefs on someone but I share my beliefs and my beliefs are that we do not do drugs or drink or use tobacco, we live a clean and pure lifestyle, I myself do not even do any caffeine, so I try to show the guys who work for me there is a #clean lifestyle.
Most of the guys who work for me are guys and or girls who have been in some kind of trouble or have had a troubled past and need a second chance, and most people will not give them a second chance whether it might be a court issue, a drug problem, alcoholism just a troubled past (like myself being a recovering Heroin addict and alcoholic).
What makes it special and or different from working anywhere else?
The difference is we are a family we are loyal to one another we talk out in the open about everything there is no secrets we have a policy that there is no secrets .if we can share it with one person we can share it with the group. So it’s a family and it keeps the bond tight and everyone helps everyone. The work place is a #cleankitchen.
In this industry which I have been involved in for 25 years it’s overran by drugs and alcoholism and people are overworked and then tossed out to pasture, it’s sad honestly not many people survive. I want the people who can’t live that lifestyle or who don’t want to live that lifestyle to see there is another option. That is the #cleankitchen – I think I am the first straight edge chef coming forward in the limelight and really taking a stand for what I believe in and saying enuff is Enuff !
Do you think expanding would be a good idea?
I think that I need to let people see what I am doing more on a regional level then a national level and show them and let my voice be heard. We are doing this through the clothes we wear through Minor Press clothing a local clothing company who is straight edge also who shares the same beliefs! So I think expanding would be great eventually but would like to expand in my city first and expand to really show my city Charlotte North Carolina what we are doing to help people now !!!
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to pursue the same thing you’re doing now?
Come talk with me reach out to me let’s talk hit me up passion is to help people I want to be the one who took the step out! I want my guys to say Chef Donnie gave us a clean environment to work and we were not pressured to do drugs or drink, we were there to learn our trade of cooking! To anyone who wants to know more hit me up! Send me a message over on Facebook The Don Chef! Follow my story! Let’s build a bigger community!
Cooking is my life staying sober is my job! Straight edge is the way I walk! It’s not just what I talk about its what I believe in. Thanks for everyone who reads this and please understand the struggle is real! If you see someone stuff along help them don’t kick them to the curb helping is what we do! I can’t stress this enough we are all equal in this community, we are one, we love, we care, we help !!
Thank you for reading this and I hope to hear from each and everyone of you !
Chef Donnie Simmons !