Hank Reid was 17 years old when he made the decision to pursue a career in cooking. At the time, he was a truck driver for Mayfield Dairy. Despite his passion for food, his first career choice was something very different – architectural engineering.
While he was studying mathematics and engineering at Clark-Atlanta University, he ran a small catering company out of his dorm room. Armed with a hot plate, toaster oven, and steaks out of his parents' freezer, he prepared steak dinners for his friends, making good money in the process.
One of his stops on his truck route was Houston's, a swanky downtown Atlanta restaurant. In a conversation with the owner, he mentioned that he wanted to pursue a culinary degree and asked if there were any positions available.
The only position available was dishwasher.
“I said I would do it,” Reid recalled, “but I told him he wouldn't want me to wash dishes for long!”
Once he left Clark-Atlanta and enrolled in the Arts Institute of Atlanta, he returned to Houston's as a lead production chef.
Reid said he always tried to stay two steps ahead by paying close attention to what his higher ups were doing.
After graduating from the Arts Institute of Atlanta with a culinary degree, and having climbed the ladder of culinary success, he found himself in the position of Executive Chef for the Louisiana Bar and Grill. He learned the art of Cajun and Creole cooking – yes, there is a difference – and added many new elements to his cooking repertoire.
A Griffin, Ga., native, Reid, his wife, Rachael, and two sons, Davonta and Chace, moved to Snellville in 2000. Just a couple of short years later, they were blessed with their third, fourth and fifth children – triplet girls.
Niiah, Neeyah and Neenah are now ten.
Dreams Do Come True
After managing a number of local restaurants, he was hired as the Executive Chef for Sweet Georgia's Juke Joint.
“I felt like this was 'the job',” Reid said. “This was the one I had been waiting for.”
Things went well. He built recipes, grew as a chef and met many incredible people. And yet, he missed being involved in his local community and dreaded the 45-minute commute, often seven days a week.
The time finally came when he decided to take the risk and implement his dream – the Trinity Community Culinary Institute (TCCI).
“TCCI is the culmination of what I've wanted to do,” he said. “We train and teach for the purpose of nurturing young minds.”
He wants to encourage young entrepreneurs to start their own restaurants, but with guidance. The restaurant business can be very tough, but with a group of advocates and mentors, he believes more dining options can transform a town.
“If an area has a reputation for good restaurants and good food, people will flock to it,” he said.
TCCI will offer recreational culinary classes in the form of after school programs, but will also host classes for families, seniors, and anyone else who wants to get together to enjoy the art of cooking.
A dinner theater is something else Reid is working toward, as part of a coordinated effort with other after school programs.
Strong Team, Big Potential
The Arts Institute has generously donated over $2,000 worth of educational material.
Prominent members of the Atlanta culinary community have jumped on the TCCI bandwagon. Internationally acclaimed sommelier George Gore will offer wine-tasting sessions, as well as mentorship and whatever else Reid needs.
Gore met Reid when they worked together at Sweet Georgia Juke Joint. He now serves on the TCCI Board of Directors.
“I think TCCI is going to be a great asset to the community,” Gore said.
Gore believes that there are many young folks who are “basically lost.” Not all youth are suited to become doctors, lawyers, school teachers, and communities need to provide options for people who don't fit that mold.
As someone who came from nothing, Gore said that, if not for the efforts of supportive parents and people who “saw something of value” in him, he could have easily become a victim of the same thing.
“Everyone needs a helping hand,” he said. “It's at least worth the try!”
A lot of people don't understand how gratifying the restaurant industry is, according to Gore.
“When you fix somebody a meal and you give it to them and they love it,” he said, “that's very gratifying because I've caused that happiness.”
Reid wants to offer more than just culinary opportunities; he plans to offer nutrition and fitness classes as well. Under the direction of Tony Mayfield, veteran and former boxer, they plan to offer classes that teach healthy eating and wise choices in exercise.
“You can eat great food and still eat healthy,” said Mayfield.
Mayfield believes that Reid's greatest strength is teaching and humility. He stays calm in the most heated situations, he said, which “shows true character.”
Classes will be offered in the fall, including programs offered in local schools. Reid hopes to have a building by November for his culinary institute. He doesn't want to leave an existing building empty, so is looking for something that will meet their needs that is already in existence.
Reid is an executive board member for the and . His goal is to help improve the Snellville community in whatever way he can.