Fernando Escobar is now head cook and manager of the restaurant; but a few years ago, he didn’t know where his next meal would come from. Open Gate International helped turn his life around through culinary school.
“My life was in the place of darkness and addicted to meth and alcohol and I ended up in the streets homeless,” said Escobar.
Making food takes Escobar back to days in the kitchen with his mother; Christmas with his family. It now gives him a feeling of empowerment.
“To be a part of something that could possibly help another single parent out there and another single dad to be able to get back on their feet and to provide for their kids is such a humbling experience,” said Escobar.
Diedre Pujols is the founder of the non-profit Open Gate Kitchen. The Costa Mesa restaurant offers life coaching, culinary training and job placement programs to people like Escobar.
“I couldn’t be more proud,” said Diedre.
The mission is a personal one for Pujols. Her own past struggles with addiction and bad choices help her connect with the students here.
“At 19, I didn’t even want to live anymore and so I feel like there’s a way that I can identify with a lot of these individuals who come in,” said Diedre.
Her husband, L.A. Angels first baseman, Albert Pujols, says he worked hard for his own dreams, and he’s helping his wife do the same for their community.
“Their teachers, they get the best of their students, you know, and I think, on the other side, the students put in really hard work, day in and day out, because they know that this is an opportunity or a chance and they don’t want to pass on it,” said Albert.
“Here I am you know, catering for the Los Angeles Angels and all these important people, it’s such a blessing. It is,” said Escobar.
Open Gate Kitchen is now open for dine-in, delivery and take-out options, serving up handcrafted healthy, fresh, cuisine with an international flair.
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