A simple mistake in the kitchen has forever changed the life of a caring veteran.
Former U.S. Coast Guard veteran, Stefan DeArmon, had to move back to his hometown of Charleston,S.C., to help his ailing parents. It had been almost 30 years since he returned home when he decided to head back in 2017. He was retired from the Coast Guard and living in Puerto Rico. It wasn’t an easy decision for the 56-year-old veteran. DeArmon was unable to move into his parents’ tiny house, nor did he have money to rent his own apartment.
However, he understood that his parents needed him, so he made the difficult choice to go to a homeless shelter to live. As DeArmon assimilated to his new life, a veteran social worker arranged for him to participate in a program, which offered job training and placement to the residents of One80 Place shelter.
The veteran had been enrolled in the culinary training program, which reignited his love of cooking. It reminded him of when he used to watch his mom and grandmother cooking in the kitchen when he was a child.
To ensure the program participants received actual work experience, the shelter arranged for the trainees to participate in a local food and wine festival. It was on a volunteer basis but it also gave DeArmon the opportunity to meet and speak with some of the chefs at the event.
Roland Feldman, the owner of the Smoke BBQ restaurant, was immediately drawn to the older veteran’s charming, charismatic demeanor. Feldman even, affectionately called DeArmon “Reverend,” due to his pristine black and white uniform. Eventually, he offered the veteran a job at his restaurant.
Last November, the novice chef made a rookie mistake while making cornbread. Normally, Feldman prepared his cornbread recipe with buttermilk, but DeArmon used heavy whipped cream, by mistake. DeArmon was mortified that the error would cost him his job. Feldman shrugged off the mistake and told him to prepare the recipe, as if nothing happened.
Neither man banked on what happened next. When it was finished baking, the cornbread was more moist, fluffier, and golden than usual. It was everything that top-notch cornbread should be.
Staff at the restaurant got a taste and they raved about the new recipe.
Feldman wasn’t the type of chef to let a great recipe go to waste, so he offered DeArmon the opportunity of a lifetime.
The two friends now co-own the Reverend Cornbread Co.
As a result of the business partnership, DeArmon is now a successful entrepreneur and has a place of his own. The veteran hasn’t forgotten about the place that gave him hope, and a chance at a better life. He still cares for his parents. But he also volunteers at One80 Place as a tutor—and he uses his new food truck to hand out hot meals to the homeless.
This is DeArmon’s way of paying it forward.
“Without hope you don’t have anything,” he told TODAY. “One80 Place gave me hope and an avenue, because dealing with what I had to with my parents, to do something that I really love, which is cooking, it was a relief, ya know.
“To see people get satisfaction from something that I’ve created is one of the best feelings ever … I swell with pride just to see the smile on my mother’s face. And it was a great feeling, a great feeling.”