RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Richmond Police Department has partnered with a Richmond native and winner of Food Network’s “Chopped Redemption,” Chef Sammy Davis, to start a culinary program for at-risk youth.

The Richmond Culinary Opportunity and Other Keystone Skills (C.O.O.K.S.) pilot program is a free eight-week program designed to spark a culinary interest in the city’s youth. Davis will be responsible for leading the program alongside other guest chefs.

Davis was born to a teenage heroin addict and lost his father to murder. His past led him to find a passion in the kitchen, and he credits the restaurant business for saving his life. The people he met in the kitchen during his years in the business helped him find his place. Now, he hopes to be that same role model for young people.

Chef Sammy Davis speaks with youth in Richmond. Credit: 8News

“I think they saw somebody who was like them that made it through the fire and came out on top, and they respected that,” Davis said.

As a successful restauranteur, he wants to help motivate the youth and expose them to various opportunities.

“I think if they can touch something tangible, somebody, and be like, ‘Oh this was once me,’ — that you can make it the other side — it kind of gives them a fighting chance,” Davis said.

The eight-week program is held in the kitchen at the Sarah Garland Jones Center. Participants will learn kitchen safety, food preparation and presentation, proper food handling and cooking techniques.

Participants’ training will expand beyond the kitchen, and they will also learn life skills, including drafting a resume, participating in a job interview, conflict resolution and navigating difficult conversations.

The program, which is currently in its pilot phase, was made possible by Bon Secours, the program’s sponsor and host of its learning space.

Graduates of the program will have access to job-placement support and resources that can help participants enter the culinary field.