Former High End Chef Now Feeds Homeless

Former high end chef Tim Hammack, now cooks for the homeless.
Elegant place setting are not out of place for Chef Tim Hammack. For a while he worked at Bouchon, famous for fine food in the Napa Valley, CBS News correspondent John Blackstone reports.

"He could be at a top notch restaurant in New York or San Francisco," said kitchen trainee Mike Starr. "But, he's here."

"Here" in a homeless shelter. He's now a chef in a soup kitchen with a difference.

Bay Area Rescue
Tim's company: Bohemian Elegence Catering

As a full time employee at the Bay Area Rescue Missionin Richmond, Calif., Chef Tim's paycheck is about half of what it was in a top end restaurant.

"I was frustrated with where I was, and you know - serving people that were extremely wealthy. They seemingly didn't have a care in the world," Hammack said.

Those who end up homeless in Richmond have seldom experienced the finer things in life. Chef Tim is trying to change that - one meal at a time.

He serves up to 1,200 meals a day from whatever is donated.

"We never really know from day to day what we're going to get," Hammack said. "So it's kind of like triage at a hospital - we separate the good, the bad, the ugly and make do with what we got."

To submit an idea for The American Spirit send us an e-mail:

He also makes do with some unusual kitchen helpers. Chef Tim teaches cooking as part of a drug recovery program.

He thinks that he can change people's lives through food.

The diners here admit this isn't the food they're used to. But they do keep coming back for more.

Fewer than one in three of those who train through the kitchen completes the recovery program. But those who make it are the reason Chef Tim has taken the heat in this kitchen for eight years.

"I felt like I was making a difference in the world," Hammack said. "So that's why I stayed."

He's cooking up hope, and serving it fresh to those who need it most.

  • John Blackstone

    From his base in San Francisco, CBS News correspondent John Blackstone covers breaking stories throughout the West. That often means he is on the scene of wildfires, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and rumbling volcanoes. He also reports on the high-tech industry in Silicon Valley and on social and economic trends that frequently begin in the West.