Richard HowardBack to News
The typical southern gentleman, Richard Howard, aka “Chef Soul Food,” has always enjoyed cooking and eating fried chicken! Growing up in a stable family, his parents encouraged all eight of their children to attain an education and be successful. However, the Miami native says he always wanted to test the limits.
A series of poor life choices led him to Faith Farm Ministries, a faith-based addiction recovery program in Florida. After completion, although he didn’t have any professional culinary training, God’s favor was with him, and within four years he was promoted to corporate management for a national restaurant chain. For the next 12 years, Richard maintained this position, raising three children. Somewhere along the way, he quit letting God have the glory in his life. He started making selfish decisions that led him back to Faith Farm Ministries. While there, Richard began to sense God leading him to open his own restaurant. But first, he needed to pursue professional culinary training. So, when he met representatives of Victory Trade School (VTS), Richard knew God was leading him to apply.
When Richard arrived at VTS, he was full of ambition. However, he soon became frustrated as he faced himself in a whole new way. A self-made man, Richard liked doing things his way. He disliked change, preferring to stay in his comfort zone. More than once, he considered leaving and just getting a job, but every time someone encouraged him to stay. Richard realized God wanted first place in his life. Although he had accepted Jesus as Savior, Richard finally made Jesus Lord of his life—surrendering his plans to God.
Reflecting on Richard’s first few weeks at VTS, Chef Rhonda Boram, VTS dean of Culinary Arts, says he was “very reserved and resistant to change of any kind.” Yet, she saw something in him and began to push him. She assigned him to internship rotations that challenged what he already knew, expanding his experience with different flavor profiles and techniques. With each new position, Richard rose to the occasion.
Most recently, Richard has served as the Sous-Chef-in- Training (SIT) for Cook’s Kettle (CK). Unlike most restaurants, CK is student-operated. Although there are three chef-instructors providing oversight, students make many of the decisions that impact daily operations. Two key positions are the Manager-in-Training (MIT) and the SIT. These roles challenge students’ leadership skills and serve as the capstone to the VTS educational process.
As SIT, Richard has offered a quiet strength to the back-of-the-house, consistently demonstrating a mentor’s heart and desire to empower others. Not only has he attained book knowledge and hands-on skills, but he has learned to manage a business with the employees in mind and to act professionally.
Chef Rhonda says, “Richard is a true team leader. When the kitchen gets overheated, he knows how to cool it down by rallying the students and causing them to work together to get the job done.” He represents the vision of VTS—transformed lives impacting the community by education through social enterprise. Moving toward completion, Richard has an open heart and a willingness to set aside his original dream to pursue whatever God has in store for him.
- Raymond Aguilera
- Ozzie Garcia