The Cookery: Nashville's nonprofit restaurant doubles as culinary training program

The Cookery offers a wide variety of dishes, including whitefish lettuce wraps. (Dylan Skye Aycock/Community Impact Newspaper)
The Cookery offers a wide variety of dishes, including whitefish lettuce wraps. (Dylan Skye Aycock/Community Impact Newspaper)

The Cookery offers a wide variety of dishes, including whitefish lettuce wraps. (Dylan Skye Aycock/Community Impact Newspaper)

Image description
Chefs prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as daily catering orders. (Dylan Skye Aycock/Community Impact Newspaper)
Image description
The Cookery features a wall dedicated to prayer requests and other messages. (Dylan Skye Aycock/Community Impact Newspaper)
Image description
The Cookery opened in 2013 near the intersection of 12th Avenue and Wedgewood Avenue. (Dylan Skye Aycock/Community Impact Newspaper)
After a stint of homelessness upon relocating from Austin to Nashville in 2002, Brett Swayn spent eight years working his way up from prep cook to sous chef status at a national restaurant chain.

In 2013, he opened The Cookery, a full-service restaurant, as a way to continue his culinary career while also helping formerly homeless men train for jobs in Nashville’s food service industry.

For Swayn and the rest of the team, a successful day means serving breakfast, lunch and dinner without turning a profit, front-of-house manager Danae Felsch said.

“The Cookery’s main mission is to empower homeless men to help them get out of their situation,” Felsch said. “They leave the program with industry certifications, but they also leave feeling restored.”

Aside from receiving a SafeServ certification, an industry requirement for those handling food served to customers, students in the five-to-seven-month culinary training program are provided with lodging, a monthly stipend, study materials, uniforms and medical and dental checkups.


After graduating from the program, Felsch said some students are hired at The Cookery, while others seek new career paths.

“At the end of the program, not everyone wants to work in a restaurant,” Felsch said. “That’s why we teach students to approach whatever they are doing with excellence. At The Cookery, that means serving great food and doing that very well.”

For breakfast, Cookery customers will find bagels, biscuits, pancakes and pastries, while lunch and early dinner crowds can choose from salads, sandwiches, tacos and specialty baked potatoes.

The Cookery also offers coffee as well as items from Swayn’s native Australia, such as Aussie-style burgers, meat pies, sausage rolls and Vegemite toast.

“Our students learn how to make things from scratch,” Felsch said. “We make our own seasonings, sauces and dressings, which is why we can confidently say there are some things here you can’t find anywhere else.”

Revenue at The Cookery covers restaurant expenses as well as culinary training programs and other outreach efforts offered by The Cookery’s nonprofit foundation, Lambscroft Ministries, according to Felsch.

The Cookery

1827 12th Ave. S., Nashville

615-269-2911

www.thecookery.org

Hours: Mon.-Fri. 7 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-2 p.m., closed Sat.
By Wendy Sturges
A Houston native and graduate of St. Edward's University in Austin, Wendy Sturges has worked as a community journalist covering local government, health care, business and development since 2011. She has worked with Community Impact since 2015 as a reporter and editor and moved to Tennessee in 2019.


MOST RECENT

In addition to bars, pedal taverns and other "transpotainment" vehicles were shut down by the city of Nashville. (Wendy Sturges/Community Impact Newspaper)
Franklin cites individuals on party buses coming from Nashville and more area news

Read the latest Franklin and Brentwood news as well as updates from Williamson County.

The U.S. Census Bureau will halt its counting operation a month earlier than expected. (Courtesy U.S. Census Bureau)
U.S. Census Bureau to halt counting operation a month earlier than expected

The self-response deadline has moved up to Sept. 30.

Little Gourmand owner Guenievre Milliner opened the first location in Green Hills in 2014. The new summer menu features Brittany, a tuna salad baguette sandwich made with onion, capers and mayo. (Photos by Dylan Skye Aycock/Community Impact Newspaper)
Authentic French pastries, to-go meals in spotlight at Little Gourmand's new Berry Hill location

Having had success selling croissants, brioches, specialty imported products and other items at the original location, Little Gourmand owner Guenievre Milliner said she was inspired to open a new patisserie française—a French pastry shop.

There are now 4,268 active cases of coronavirus in Davidson County, a decrease of 301 since yesterday. (Community Impact staff)
Davidson County coronavirus cases rise by 80 in 24 hours

There are now 4,268 active cases of coronavirus in Davidson County, a decrease of 301 since yesterday.

Liberation Yoga Nashville has permanently closed its brick-and-mortar studio in 12 South. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Liberation Yoga Nashville closes brick-and-mortar studio in 12 South

The 12 South yoga studio will continue to offer virtual classes.

There are now 4,612 active cases of coronavirus in the county, a decrease of 50 since yesterday. (Community Impact staff)
Davidson County coronavirus cases rise by more than 300 in 24 hours

There are now 4,612 active cases of coronavirus in the county, a decrease of 50 since yesterday.

In addition to bars, pedal taverns and other "transpotainment" vehicles regulated by the city must close. (Wendy Sturges/Community Impact Newspaper)
Metro Nashville's ban on 'transpotainment' vehicles now in effect

All pedal pubs and party buses must cease operations in the city, even if they do not serve alcohol.

Confederate symbols face backlash, police update use-of-force policy: News from Nashville

Read recent Nashville-area news—both print and online coverage.