Growing up, Chef Bryan Jacobs found himself in many different facets of giving—including being a volunteer firefighter for a stint, donating his time to kids and adults with special needs, and those facing unsolvable challenges. “I was raised to be a giver,” he says. “I was raised in a very kind way in order to always understand that there are less fortunate in the world. We didn’t have much, but we still had a lot more than others.” Jacobs would eventually go on to serve two tours in Iraq.

Upon returning stateside from military duty, he admittedly battled personal demons and trauma before finding his jive in the kitchen. “All the good that has come for me came from a very dark and traumatic place,” he shares. “Unfortunately, I lost my younger brother to veteran suicide six years ago on Memorial Day weekend.” Jacobs threw himself into creating good food. The post-military passion he discovered through the culinary world motivated him to create a nonprofit to help fellow struggling veterans who have found themselves displaced, homeless or considered at-risk. 

VETS 2 SUCCESS was born to train veterans for careers in the culinary, baking and hydroponic gardening fields while encouraging a transition back into civilian life through “boot camps” based on food, brew and agriculture. The training program is based on fundamental military tactics and strategies—providing structure, measuring achievement, setting people up in jobs and establishing desirable and reachable end goals. Jacobs aimed to re-create these elements in his 12-week program that teaches vets how to be safe, smart and respectful in the kitchen, as well as respectful kitchen jargon like “Yes, Chef” and “No, Chef.”

Once they’ve completed the program, vets are placed in various industry jobs and start learning real skills. Aside from cooking, brewing and farming, they ultimately learn how to exist in society again and find purpose in their lives again. “What truly makes me feel passionate is actually being a part of the change,” Jacobs says. “On day one, we have six or seven veterans join us. All their eyes, all their expressions, everything is the same—without happiness, without purpose and without identity. You see lives go from hurt in darkness to seeing light at the end of the tunnel, realizing what they can achieve. It’s a beautiful thing.”

Due to COVID-19, VETS 2 SUCCESS is currently at a standstill but is looking for a new and permanent home to continue its class programs—perhaps a restaurant or old catering hall. “What pushes me to keep going is the fact that I see a little bit of my brother in every person that we meet,” he shares. “I know now I could not have saved him, but I know through this work, we are able to save others and help other families not have to go through what we did.”   SRQ