Brett Swayn, founder of The Cookery restaurant on 12th Ave. S., recently visited campus to share the inspiring story behind his 3-year-old organization. The Cookery aims to benefit homeless members of the Nashville community by training them in culinary skills and giving them a place to work and grow. Since its grand opening in 2013, The Cookery’s culinary program has graduated 13 students, all of whom were formerly homeless.
In his discussion, Swayn shared the story of his journey from Australia to Dallas, Texas in pursuit of a career in music. When things weren’t going as planned and Swayn lost everything, he turned to God for the first time in his life and began listening to what was asked of him. He traveled from Dallas to Nashville on a Greyhound bus with nothing but a Bible and some clothes and lived off the resources of a downtown missionary. While working as a cook in the missionary’s kitchen, he met several employees from Fleming’s Steakhouse, who ultimately hired him.
From there, Swayn began looking for more ways to use his position in order to help those who were living on the streets. He asked if Fleming’s could open its doors to the homeless on the two days of the year that the restaurant was closed—Thanksgiving and Christmas Day—to help provide meals during the holidays for those who needed them. Several years later, he was able to buy The Cookery’s current location and open its doors in order to help give the homeless a place they could learn a new skill set and rediscover their self-identities.
Swayn’s journey gave him a passion for helping those who have lost everything, because he knows what it is like to be in their position. “There are certain colors of the rainbow you will not see unless you deal with the poor,” Swayn said. “Living among the poor trains the ear to hear God, trains the heart to yearn for Him and trains the voice to talk to Him in a way that will get Him to answer.”
For more information on Swayn’s story and The Cookery, visit its website.