LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A new Hollywood restaurant is giving its employees a chance at redemption.
Redemption Foods, located on North Vine Street and Fountain Avenue, employs primarily ex-offenders, men and women who have served prison time.
The non-profit group that owns the eatery, New Horizon Community Reentry Center, says its mission is to give its workers real world skills to help them integrate back into society.
“We don’t want to teach them how to work in a restaurant. We want them to get better at the skills – what they want to do in their life,” Redemption General Manager Chad “Joseph” Yosef told CBS2′s Amber Lee.
Philip Senteno is one of seven workers at the eatery who have been incarcerated.
“In 1980 I got arrested for a robbery. While in custody, I got in a fistfight and four days later the man died and I was charged with a homicide,” he explained.
Senteno served more than 30 years in state prison and was originally given a life sentence. Released in 2010, he knows how hard it is to find a job after being locked up.
“When I first got out there were so many things I thought I was prepared for and I realized that [with] all the work that I had done [there were] still some things that had changed,” he explained.
“As soon as you got to check that box ‘have you have been convicted of a felony?’ And you check it yes, they say, ‘What is it?’ Then you put homicide. And people back away and it’s like, ‘Oh, I don’t want to take a chance on you,’” he said.
Everything in the kitchen is made from scratch, including stuffed jalapenos, French Onion soup and salmon cakes.
Once the ex-cons have enough work experience they can find long-term employment elsewhere, giving them the opportunity to live up to the restaurant’s name.
“Redemption. We’ve been redeemed as lifers,” Senteno said.