Called to Cook

Todd Bradford comes from a family that loves to cook. It’s no surprise that he does as well.

“I’ve been cooking since I was young. There’s something about cooking that makes me feel at peace. I like to see the smiles on people’s faces when I prepare them food,” shared Todd, a line cook at Reata Restaurant in Fort Worth.

Todd’s workday typically begins around 6 a.m. “I have to makes sure that everything is in place. That’s something that Chef Manny and Chef D really drove home in culinary school: being organized.”

Todd met Chefs Manny Vasquez and Dedrich (“D”) Flint as a student in Community Kitchen, a free culinary job training program provided by Tarrant Area Food Bank. He heard about the program when he was working at Eatzi’s Market & Bakery in Fort Worth.

“I was working in the bakery when a woman came in and started talking to me. She asked me if I had ever thought about going to culinary school. At that time I had done a lot of research and I had thought about going to culinary school. But already having a lot of student loans, I really didn’t really want to do that again,” shared Todd. “She said that she knew about a program that was actually looking for students, and that if you were selected the program was absolutely free.”

Making the Best Decision

After attending a Community Kitchen information session, Todd decided that it was the program for him. He was introduced to chefs and current students that were enrolled in the program. “The current students explained the process of the program and how it would work. After that I went home and I just couldn’t stop thinking about it. And it was the best decision that I’ve ever made in my life.” Later Todd was accepted into the program.

While Todd has always loved to cook, he hasn’t always had an opportunity to cook for a living. “Most of my adult life was spent in the collections industry,” said Todd. “The collections industry was just one of those grinds and I wasn’t happy—I was miserable actually. After that I started driving trucks for a trucking company. I went to Eatzi’s after that…and it was my first cooking job.”

Todd shared a memory from his time as a student in Community Kitchen. “The first day that I walked into that kitchen at TAFB, I knew that I had made the right decision.” Throughout the program chefs who were already working in the industry came in to share their skills, recipes and knowledge. “That was priceless and I don’t think that there is enough money in the world that can buy that type of experience.”

Pursuing the Dream

When Todd was accepted into Community Kitchen, his 11-year-old daughter was very excited and supportive. “She thought that culinary school was the best thing ever. She has always wanted me to share my food with more people.”

While going through the program, Todd was trying to juggle working and studying. He ended up failing his first Community Kitchen exam. His daughter offered him advice about studying for his exams. “And from that point on, I didn’t fail another test.”

Todd also described his relationship with his parents. “I have had some of the most supportive parents in the world. Regardless of what my goals were, at the end of the day, my parents have always been supportive.” He added that his parents have always been his biggest cheerleaders.

He spoke of his accomplishments and how he completed the program. “Living out my dreams at this juncture in my life is 100 percent because I’ve had support in my corner.” He has two sisters that reside in Georgia. “They cheered me on, and they were great too.”

Taking the Chance

After completing Community Kitchen in August of 2018, Todd worked at Reata Restaurant as an intern before being offered a full-time job there.

“I feel like I was called to cook. It’s a passion that burns deep down inside of me,” Todd shared.

He offered advice to those who are thinking of participating in Community Kitchen. Todd said that you must have passion for what you do. “Every day I go to work with a smile on my face because it’s something that I love.” He added, “If you are looking to get into the professional cooking industry or to become a chef, the Community Kitchen program is one of the best kept secrets in Fort Worth.”

Todd’s goals for the future include opening his own business called William Todd Culinary Services, LLC. It’s a catering business that’s already in the works. He wants to be a go-to for people who want a great culinary experience. “Hopefully I will be the name that they will always want to use and the name after that they will always remember.”

By Alicia Allen Smith
Volunteer Blogger, Tarrant Area Food Bank